World Cup fever attracts die-hard fans to embassy viewing parties

This summer, diplomats and staffers from just about every one of Washington’s 180-plus embassies took a break from their usual day-to-day routines this summer to focus on large TV screens instead.

As the FIFA World Cup 2014 games aired on ESPN live from Brazil, ambassadors found themselves eating, drinking and cheering for their home teams while leaving phone calls and emails unanswered. For diplomats, the World Cup was like a long holiday vacation in which they took advantage of high spirits, light hearts and easy days.

Decked-out German fans celebrate their country’s June 26 World Cup victory over the United States in Dupont Circle. Photos: German Embassy

The first such party began even before the very first of 64 matches, with some 400 people flocking to the home of Brazilian Ambassador Mauro Vieira to watch that country defeat Croatia 3-1.

Germany, which ultimately won the month-long tournament, celebrated in a very public way from beginning to end. In part with local event organizer Dupont Festival, the German Embassy invited soccer fans in the district to the World Cup Festival beginning at 11:30 a.m. where the USA v. Germany match was broadcast on two large screens in the public park.

A group of Americans watches in angst at a Dupont Circle festival as the United States loses to Germany 1-0.

Some 300 fans rooting for USA and Germany attended the event, dressed up in either American or German pride. Team flags were held as high as fans’ spirits and cheers flooded the atmosphere. ESPN’s online channel reported that 3.2 million viewers watched the game online — more even than this year’s Super Bowl, which chalked up 1.1 million online viewers and was deemed “most-viewed U.S. sports livestream ever.”

The first half saw no goals, though both teams welcomed a yellow card, the Americans earning their second later in the game. Ten minutes into the second half, however, Germany forward Thomas Müller scored on U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard as the first and only goal of the game.

Luckily for the German Embassy, staffers had much to celebrate following the game, which Germany won 1-0.

Two soccer fans — an American and a German — display their native teams’ flags while watching the game downtown.

The Colombians weren’t so lucky. On July 4, fans took advantage of the Independence Day holiday and headed to the official Dupont Circle residence of their ambassador, Luís Carlos Villegas. There, they watched their beloved team take on Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Hot dogs and bottles of ice-cold Águila beer flowed freely as colombianos decked out in their national colors of yellow, red and blue watched South America’s two most populous republics take on each other in Belo Horizonte.

Described by CBS Sports as “an ugly, gritty war,” the game took on traumatic overtones when Colombia’s Juan Zuniga rammed his knee into Brazilian star Neymar in the 86th minute. That knocked Neymar out for the remainder of the World Cup and was a crucial — though not the only — factor in Germany’s eventual 7-1 crushing defeat over Brazil. Even so, it wasn’t enough to save Colombia, which Brazil won by a score of 2-1.

Soccer fans scream as Germany scores the first and only goal of its game against the United States.

The final game of the World Cup, played in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium before 74,738 screaming fans, was also watched by hundreds of Washingtonians in air-conditioned comfort — at a party co-hosted by the German and Argentine embassies at the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. The match was shown on a 21-foot screen, and the Kogod Courtyard’s café offered snacks, beer and wine.

But not even Lionel Messi could save Argentina from the well-oiled German soccer machine, which won the match 1-0 in the 112th minute — and marked the fourth World Cup win in history for Germany.

Emily Daffron is an editorial intern at The Washington Diplomat.

This article was originally posted July 2014. Check out the article on The Washington Diplomat’s site here.