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The Pleasure Of Watching Spain v Sweden In An Irish Pub

David Villa

Earlier this week I wrote an opinion piece about how the experience of watching football matches on TV are oftentimes better than seeing the games in person. Well, I want to take that back. That’s because watching a match on TV in a pub is better than both watching matches at home and in person, but it has to be the right type of pub.I found that pub this afternoon when I met up with my friend Ron from Romford, England — a fellow Miami Fusion fan from the good old days when we had a team in South Florida. We met some unlikely guests at the establishment, which definitely made the whole football watching experience more enjoyable.One of our unlikely guests at the Slainte Irish Pub in Boynton Beach was former professional footballer Ivan McKinley who used to play for New England Revolution, DC United, Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion. Now retired from playing professional football, he and his family live in the area.For those of you who don’t know McKinley, he was pigeonholed as a rough and tough defender who still has the notoriety of receiving the most number of red cards in MLS history. The South African defender was one of the better defenders the Fusion had. Never afraid to throw his body to block a shot or go up for a header against the top strikers, McKinley was definitely a huge hit at the Fusion.We all gathered at the pub to watch the Spain against Sweden match, which was yet another firecracker. This tournament is really turning into an enjoyable experience with so many wonderful matches and exciting football on display. The Sweden against Spain game was no exception. The match had plenty of drama around the two goal areas with Spain starting out very strong but Sweden gaining confidence as the match went on.This was the type of match I watched purely for enjoyment sake. Between knocking back a glass of Magner’s Cider, chatting with McKinley and watching the match in HD on plasma screens, I wasn’t able to concentrate on the tactics or the specifics but had the pleasure instead of just watching the match.All three goals in this match were sublime and examples of why Euro 2008 is more entertaining than Copa America 2007 ever was. The first goal by Fernando Torres for Spain was a perfect example of the Spaniard making something out of nothing and reaching out to redirect the ball into the corner of the net.The second goal was an example of the strength that Zlatan Ibrahimovic possesses. While most strikers would have fallen to the ground or been knocked off their feet by the physical Spanish defender, Ibrahimovic managed to shrug off the physical challenge, twisted and turned to carefully slot the ball into the back of the net.The third goal was a work of art as David Villa stayed calm under pressure in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper and knocked the ball into the corner of the net. The impressively taken goal reminded me a lot of Fernando Torres’s goal for Liverpool against Chelsea earlier last season.With Spain, Portugal, Holland and Croatia already qualified for the next round, those are four teams that play extremely attractive football and it’s quite plausible that one of them will end up being champions of Europe this summer. I can’t wait.After the match ended, the beer kept flowing as the crowd in the pub started singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in full voice (there were a couple of Liverpool supporters there). A little later I had a chance to chat with McKinley a little more and heard him recount his stories of training with both West Ham United and Reading. Unfortunately because he was unable to get a work permit, he couldn’t sign for either club. But he did share a story about turning up at West Ham’s training ground early one morning a couple of hours before the players arrived. Then manager at the time Harry Redknapp asked McKinley what he was doing and proceeded to invite the South African to join him for breakfast!Overall it was a wonderful day. The Greece against Russia match was bearable and I managed to catch the one and only goal for Russia before heading off to run some errands. I have a feeling I’ll be returning to the Slainte Irish Pub a few more times before Euro 2008 concludes.

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  1. Dave

    September 23, 2008 at 8:41 am

    2 on the ranking: England?

    Made me laugh hysterical!

  2. Michael

    June 16, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Inler has been good, but there is no doubt that Yakin was their best player all tournament, and he would’ve been even without scoring two goals yesterday.

  3. Shane Breslin

    June 16, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Tomas Rose-Hickey and Michael,

    You’re missing Switzerland’s best player of the tournament, midfielder Gokhan Inler.

    Nice blog Gaffer.

    My experiences of watching Croatia-Germany in a pub in Ireland (as opposed to an “Irish pub”) can be read here:


  4. Hudsonland

    June 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Didn’t the Swiss play better in the first game after Frei went off? Jus’ sayin’ ….

  5. Kartik

    June 15, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Frei’s injury really changed the tournament no doubt. I just think the Swiss would have been strong if they had had him.

  6. Michael

    June 15, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    To add onto Alex’s list, Valon Behrami and Ludovic Magnin are good players as well.

  7. Tomas Rose-hickey(formerly alex hleb)

    June 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    kartik its your opinion and we respect your opinion.
    christopher walker, i dont think switzerland is a poor team.
    senderos, gelson fernandes, johan djourou, hakan yakin, barnetta, alexander frei are quality players.

  8. Kartik

    June 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Ranking the top 10 footballing nations in terms of national team talent right now:

    1- Argentina
    2- England
    3- France
    4- Spain
    5- Germany
    6- Holland
    7- Brazil
    8- Italy
    9- Mexico
    10- Portugal

    Subjective rankings based on technical skill and talent. Obviously controversial, but my point is that three of what I consider the top nine sides are OUTSIDE Europe and do play in Copa America. Thus neither competition has the overall top level talent that the World Cup has, but the Copa matches I prefer as they are artistic and wide open. Five of the top six sides are in Europe.

    The World Cup does have minnows like some of the lesser African qualifiers, the US, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia and Japan who more often than not disgrace the competition and give the seeded teams more glory than they may deserve. So on that level the Euros are more competitive.

  9. Chris Walker

    June 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    im not sure its ‘snobbery’ as such. Oustide Europe there are probably only 2 teams capable of winning the world cup and they are Brazil and Argentina. The Euros are a lot more competitive as the quality is generally higher, hence we get to see great games like Netherlands vs France the other night. The flip side to this though is that there always a chance of watching 2 great teams in their own right totally nullify each other

    Im not saying the euros doont feature some poor teams though, look at Switzerland, Poland Austria, and this year Greece

  10. tampasoccerfan

    June 15, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Hmm, Euro v. Copa ’07?
    Copa last year had boatload of goals, crazy scores and very offensive display. And Brazil winning yet again without their top two/three players.
    This Euro has had 3/4 really boring games, and several superb ones(all the “group of death” except Romania-France), Croatia-Germany, Portugal’s games, Spain’s games.
    And 4-5-1 is definitely not the death of football. I know defense wins tourneys(Greece, Italy in previous two big tourneys), but it seems that offense will win this time around: look at the potential champions: Portugal, Spain, Holland, why not Croatia.
    Bottom line, while the European teams are much more disciplined than South Americans in terms of tacics and emphasis on defense, entertainment in this tournament is not lacking. There are plenty of thrills, even with “safety first” approach. Yet, 2/3 of the goals scored so far have been on counter-attacks…tells you where football is going.
    My $ is on Turkey today: they are the better side, but we’ll see.

  11. Hudsonland

    June 15, 2008 at 10:57 am

    There’s a standard America restaurant/bar in town where one of the owners is English (and if his ‘Yiddoes’ chants are any guide, either a Spurs fan or a rather virulent anti-semitic). I saw all the WC2006 England games there, sometimes over full English breakfasts for the early games.

    As the tournament progressed the crowds got bigger and noisier. The Portugal game was on a Sunday morning, before the local laws allow alcohol to be served. I guess they knew there might be trouble if they had hundreds of thirsty Englishmen waiting a couple of hours for the bar to open, so they put a guy on the front door.

    “Are you here for the private party?”
    “The private party”
    “Uh, yeah, sure”

    And thus the beer did flow. There must have been four or five hundred people in there by kick-off, couple of hundred past fire regulations, about half English ex-pats and the rest were youngish Americans who were totally digging the atmosphere. Word had spread that this was an experience unlike anything American sports had to offer.

    By late in extra time, the floor was covered in spilled beer and broken glass, and the crush was easily equal to anything I’d experienced on the terraces in the pre-Hillsborough days. It was dangerous, noisy, exciting, and the only time watching a game in a bar ever really matched those good/bad old days for atmosphere.

    Irish pubs have never seemed particularly ‘Irish’ to me. I guess it’s like Indian food in Britain, it’s not necessarily like food in India, but it’s what the British have come to expect.

  12. kurtmiro

    June 15, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Please help I don’t want to watch the games as they are too early in the morning here in Vietnam but want to doze whilst listening to them. From the UK originally but radio 5 live is blocked – anybody know any web sites?

  13. Brad

    June 15, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I think some euro-snobbery is into play with saying that Euro 2008 is vastly superior to Cope America 2007. Last year’s Copa America was a firecracker of a tournament, and while Euro 2008 has heated up starting with the Netherlands-Italy game, those first two days were pretty dull.

  14. The Gaffer

    June 15, 2008 at 9:22 am


    Sure I do. Name a few games from the opening round of Copa America 2007 that were better than Holland v Italy, Spain v Sweden, Holland v France, Croatia v Germany and Italy v Romania.

    The Gaffer

  15. Kartik

    June 15, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Copa in 2007 was the best tournament recently I can recall. Copa in 2001 was pretty darn good as well as Amado Guevara dominated the event.

  16. Sanjay

    June 15, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Do u seriously believe its been better than Copa America 2007?
    You are looney, mate…

  17. eplnfl

    June 15, 2008 at 7:45 am

    To my great luck a new Irish Pub opened down the street from my office. A real pub menu and charm with several nice HD TV’s.

    The Irish food is fair, the American grub better, but the big thing in a Chicago suburban location you can have lunch and get Euro 08 action. What a stroke of good fortune.

    Friday, was the first day I took it in and it was the best lunch I had in a long time. My normal lunch hour covers the 2nd half of the first game. Just wonderful!

  18. Hudsonland

    June 14, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I watched (wearing my Spain jersey) with two Swedes and three neutrals. Occurred to me later I should have attempted tapas and smörgåsbord rather than just laying on chips-n-dips.

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