Since the men’s World Cup kicked off on June 14th, many Americans have been scrambling to connect to the event since our loudly mediocre national outfit blew its chance to make the global tournament last summer. And increasingly throughout New York City over the last decade or so, there isn’t a public establishment that hasn’t tried to catch World Cup fever in hopes of taking advantage of the city’s multiethnic makeup.
Some attempts have been controversial to say the least – or incredibly bad attempts at pandering – while others have deftly linked sports betting with social justice. But nothing works better than anything that’s clever and convenient such as what took place at Kellogg’s NYC along the northern border of Union Square Park.
In partnership with Eat Soccer, the café had hosted the #WorldCupBreakfastMatch where fans of their respective teams could take in an all-you-can-eat experience while cheering on their countrymen. So basically, if you loved your Apple Jacks while watching the team of the Union Jack (England), this was the place for you.
For Qiana Martin, the founder of Eat Soccer, the biggest global event in sports may have seemed like a mere rumor here in the States every four years. “For me, I first relocated to New York City in 2014 during the World Cup, and I still found that even though the U.S. men’s team was in competition, that you still had to seek out where to watch the matches,” Martin told TSFJ. “If you’re in the know, you know, but if not, you were still trying to find your own way.”
So where most American fans have lamented the time difference between here and Russia, the social entrepreneur and athlete saw the advantage when it came to crafting the right events at Cup time. “Because the matches (this year) are at a different time zone that make it conducive right before work, all the matches are wrapped up by 4PM (Eastern), I thought it would be great and convenient for people to be able to come in and say ‘let’s get to the 8AM match, and I can be at my office by 9 or 9:30, and still be a part of the World Cup.’ To be able to share and be around other fans is still something people crave around World Cup time.”
By and large, people who were looking for a place to watch the games had to consider several factors. For starters, it was about the proximity to work since they were planning to come into their offices later than normal. And while there are plenty of watering holes hosting watch parties and extending hours to bring in customers, perhaps getting hammered at 8AM isn’t the most ideal way to start a Tuesday in mid-June.
Had some great chats that you will read about soon. If you are in NYC, definitely come through the Cafe on 17th Street, across the street from Union Square. pic.twitter.com/yu1OT0xy3v
— Sports Fan Journal (@theSFjournal) June 19, 2018
Watching with your fellow countrypeople is what makes the World Cup the grand spectacle it is every four years, something not lost on Sergio, one of the Columbia fans who came to the Union Square digs to watch his home nation pride take on Japan, a side that has become one of the tournament’s most exciting entities. “I like this experience because you are enjoying (the match) with people from your country, you are sharing a good time without being in the middle of a bar, which could be not so quiet in the morning.”
Sergio, like everyone else, left extra early so that not only he can get to the café, but make sure he can still punch the clock at work at a decent hour. “I think that if you watch the match alone at home, it’s not as good of an experience as watching with your countrymen. To have the excitement and all the feelings with your people. It makes the experience much better.”
Coming to the café, adorned with classic Kellogg’s advertisements, creative breakfast mixes and even a ‘disco bowl’ of its famous cereals, provided a sensory element that few others places could provide. Think of those days when you were in high school or college or at that really cool first job where you got to watch the first round of the NCAA men’s hoops tournament while devouring a couple of bowls of Frosted Flakes. Well, you were able to do that here along with some of the most interesting menu items, including this unique take on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I’ll tell you about the people here in a bit, but it is important to tell you all that I am eating PB&J in Eggo form. And with bananas. Fruits are 🔑. pic.twitter.com/Spw616KHNj
— Sports Fan Journal (@theSFjournal) June 19, 2018
Yeah, those are Eggo waffles, my friends. And it was shockingly good, so long as you took your bites before it cooled down. In fact, there was plenty to appreciate about the gatherings, especially if your team was winning.
“Simply put, we saw a good opportunity to combine what we know best, which is obviously breakfast, with a global event,” reflected Rob Nieporent, who manages the marketing for the cafe. “With the time difference between (the States) and Russia, a lot of the most desirable games over the first two weeks were during breakfast.” Foot traffic understandably varied for the different matchups as the viewership has for viewers watching in the comfort of their own homes. The later the day went, the more people parked themselves at the café.
Perhaps the patterns of foot traffic was also a result of not having the Yanks on the pitch. “The World Cup happens at a very interesting time of year, said Nieporent. “A lot of kids are coming out of school, and it kinda sneaks up on people like ‘oh yeah, it’s the World Cup!’ Because the US wasn’t in it, it sort of snuck up on people, and as more people talk about it, they start to game plan for it. What we’ve seen is that people are starting to come in more and more every day.”
While there was an international flair every morning, Martin is still hoping that other Eat Soccer events continue to do their part to build an authentic and robust American culture. “One, we’re a country of immigrants. So you have large populations of people who live and breathe this game, and they have to figure out a way to do it (here). It’s a little different for those of us who travel to places where soccer (to people) is “how’s the weather?” Everyone can tell you what’s going on with soccer in their particular area of the world. It’s not necessarily the case here, and I think people are trying to figure out… how to express that passion here. The landscape for soccer is that you have to find the sport, it’s not everywhere for people to consume. You will notice that there’s been an uptick in how many games have been broadcasted, so you have the base of the American population consuming it, but it has to be ingratiated into every day culture.”
Eat Soccer is continuing to do its part to weave the States into the global sport, and even though the #WorldCupBreakfastMatch events have passed, Kellogg’s NYC is worth a visit at any time. This Scribe definitely recommends the ‘Cookie Butter and Jelly.’
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.