The arrival of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil marks a momentous time for soccer in Buffalo, and the spotlight will shine on Hertel Avenue as the epicenter of free-flowing futbol and national pride.
The international affair — which could garner even greater local attention than when the Wambach-Morgan-Solo-fueled U.S. Women’s National Team sprinted to the World Cup Final in 2011 — began at 4 p.m. Thursday with the host nation squaring off against Croatia.
Mes Que, Buffalo’s first soccer-only bar, is at the heart of the festivities; co-owner Tony Christiano and his cousin, Left Bank proprietor Mike Christiano, have devoted the last two years to growing soccer’s popularity in Buffalo by televising virtually every meaningful European and American soccer match at 1420 Hertel Ave., earning the trust and business of fans far and wide.
Because this is Mes Que’s inaugural men’s tournament, the bar has an opportunity to set the bar high for future large-scale soccer celebrations. Fortunately for the Christianos, the bar’s mantra for the tournament is nearly identical to its mission as a bar.
“We want Mes Que to be the place where all kinds of people — those from Buffalo and those visiting Buffalo — can share the game together,” Tony Christiano said in a short phone conversation.
Hello Hertel learned some of the specific plans:
- Mes Que will televise every World Cup match.
- Two more televisions were added to Mes Que’s existing four inside of the restaurant.
- A 60” TV has been stationed in the alley behind Mes Que, accessible from North Park Avenue or through the rear of the bar; that space is expected to accommodate between 300 and 400 people. Porter potties will be positioned in the alley.
- A large TV box was mounted on top of Mes Que’s outdoor patio along Hertel, allowing passersby to catch a glimpse of — or stop briefly to watch — the matches.
Other businesses along Hertel have joined the fray, as Globe Market will air matches on its TVs, while Christiano is hopeful that Gecko’s will take part as well.
For a short time, Mes Que hoped to stream the U.S. games inside North Park Theatre, but when Christiano reached out to FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, representatives explained that such an approach would violate policy.
Mes Que has worked with local soccer supporter groups — from the Buffalo chapter of the American Outlaws to the Buffalo Soccer Council, a group of active, futbol enablers — to drum up interest and assure a raucous-yet-safe environment.
If you’re one of the folks whose soccer appetite is never satiated, the Buffalo chapter of the American Outlaws will host the Sunday Soccer Series at North Park Theatre, where soccer-focused films and documentaries will be shown inside the recently refurbished cinema.
“Victory,” “The Year My Parents Went to Brazil,” “Next Goal Wins” (the story of American Samoa) and a Bob Bradley documentary are just a few of the films that will roll on all Sundays from now through July 13 — excluding July 6, which is Independence Day Weekend.
Although the United States’ first match isn’t until 6 p.m. Monday against Ghana, prepare for soccer mania along Hertel between North Park and Norwalk. Even if you’re not a soccer fanatic, the chance to witness 32 prideful countries — as big as Brazil and as small as Uruguay — vie for the same goal can be a magical experience. And it’s just down the road.
Editorial Note: I can’t and won’t take any credit for this post. Admittedly, I know little about soccer and less about “futbol” – but in recognizing and appreciating its significance in the world of sports, I reached out to a local expert to provide this great Hertel insight.
Salumeria Belsito at the the corner of Hertel and Saranac is also showing the games.