Cafe Bastille, the heart of the French World Cup resistance in San Francisco, was on the other side of town and a Uruguayan pub could not be found, but for a French match in this tournament an Irish bar is definitely not neutral ground.
The Irish failed to qualify for the World Cup as a result of an obvious hand ball by France’s Thierry Henry on a game-winning goal in overtime. Le main tres gauche.
The Irish demanded a replay and have been in enraged mourning ever since. It’s been an embarrassment for the entire world of soccer, even drawing the wrath of one of France’s more traditional, non-sporting enemies (this video not for the kids).
So it was to Napper Tandy then, a pub in the Mission with an Irish flag over the door, a half-dozen screens set above a few tables and a horseshoe bar, filled with fans working on brown ales and Bloody Marys, with a few plates of beans and sausages.
The barmaids were Irish as were some of the patrons, though the crowd had just as much a neighborhood vibe as an event gathering. Two drunk youngsters sitting to my left would have been pegged for frat brothers in most other places, but here in the cuisine capital they were discussing how best to prepare beef medallions.
There were even three Frenchmen in the crowd, two in their late 20s with unwrinkled button-down shirts, looking hirsute and waif-like at the same time. They did not seem wary even though when a couple of the Irish fans were asked what they thought of the French their responses were unsuitable for video.
The other Frenchman looked as though he paid rent for his chair, mixing Coors and Coke (tres barbare) and wearing a Purdue basketball jersey. Someone suggested that this was an insult to French couture and cuisine. He just smiled and yelled “Vive les blancs” (the French were wearing white jerseys).
A TV crew showed up but the game itself was uninteresting, with few scoring chances and a 0-0 conclusion. Midway through the second half even the Irish fans were hoping from a goal by anyone and the Monsieur Purdue was yelling “Vive les bleus” (the Uruguayan color).
The only moment of intrigue was when Henry himself entered the game at the 70-minute mark. Shortly thereafter Uruguay lost a man when Nicholas Ladeiro distinguished himself as a substititue by picking up two yellow cards in 16 minutes.
And lo, there was Thierry with a free kick on the final play of the match, just outside of the penalty area. He wasn’t able to lift it over the wall. Guilty conscience, perhaps.
The real winner? O’Neill’s Irish Pub (at the ballpark and in San Mateo). Apparently they are buying a free pint for everyone when a team playing France scores a goal. Well-played for today. The gesture huge, their bottom line untouched.
The first 4:30 am game tomorrow, plus the US-England match, with two public viewing areas in San Francisco, one at AT&T Park and the other, one of 14 matches to be shown during the tournament, at the Civic Center.