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St. Louis soccer fans turn out in droves for Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup

Germany fans throw their arms in the air after the team scores against Japan during a World Cup watch party at a bar
Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Frank Schmitz, center left, a 63-year-old fan from Ladue, and Claus Schlafly, a 55-year-old fan from St. Louis, react alongside Germany fans after the team scored against Japan on Wednesday during a World Cup watch party at Amsterdam Tavern in south St. Louis.

Lee este reporte en español.

Soccer fans are known to pack into the Amsterdam Tavern during the wee hours of the morning to watch the latest fútbol match. Wednesday is no different and marks the latest celebration for the 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Qatar.

This World Cup is unlike those of years past. The tournament was moved to November and December this time because of concerns over excessive heat in Qatar during the usual June and July window.

World Cup aficionados in St. Louis are bracing brisk mornings and unusual match times — given the nine-hour time difference — to catch the latest action on the pitch.

Frederik Houben, of Lafayette Square, donned a Germany jersey and had a frosty Bitburger beer in hand at the south St. Louis bar — a pilsner originating in the German city of Bitburg. He said waking up before sunrise for the 7 a.m. kickoff against Japan was a no-brainer.

“The World Cup is special so you have to celebrate it,” Houben said, adding that while he has the day off from his job as director of sales and marketing at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel due to the Thanksgiving holiday, a Germany match isn’t one to miss. “When the game’s at 7 o’ clock in the morning, you have to start with drinking a few beers.”

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Nathan Fortenberry, 34, of Arnold, is one of the dozens of Germany supporters in the St. Louis area cheering the team on for the World Cup on Wednesday outside Amsterdam Tavern.

Japan shocked the soccer world by upsetting Germany with a nail-in-the-coffin second goal in the 83rd minute of play on Wednesday morning, winning 2-1. This became the second major upset of the World Cup, after Saudi Arabia beat Argentina, 2-1, on Monday.

Despite the draw to the World Cup, the tournament’s host country of Qatar has been mired in controversy, and its winning bid for the sports spectacular, United States officials say, was born through bribery.

In addition, the country has also been criticized for alleged human rights violations and banning the sale of beer in its stadiums only days before the official kickoff. The ban causing confusion in St. Louis-based Budweiser's ranks with the brand’s official Twitter account posting: “Well, this is awkward” in response. The tweet was later deleted.

Billy Holley, a general manager at Amsterdam Tavern, said large turnouts at the bar to watch the World Cup every four years isn't surprising, especially with having two St. Louis natives playing on the U.S. Men’s National Team this time — forward Josh Sargent and center-back Tim Ream.

“It’s really, really exciting to have local interest in a national team [and] be represented with two players from the area,” he said. “It just adds a whole other layer of excitement to it.”

Sargent and Ream attended St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Missouri, and both later on went to play professionally in England, Ream most recently with Fulham FC in the Premier League and Sargent with Norwich City of the EFL Championship League.

Soccer fans in St. Louis are continuing to ride the enthusiasm from last week’s inaugural match at CityPark — home of St. Louis City SC. The stadium will host watch parties for the international tournament both in its Brew Pub and on the big screen in the ULTRA Club.

Holley said the tournament will attract people who normally don’t follow the day in, day out of soccer. “It's a world party that only happens every four years," he said. "You'll see people that will come out for this that you normally don't see."

Soccer fans who want to watch one of the World Cup’s 4 a.m. matches with a pint of beer will be out of luck because bars in Missouri must close at 1:30 a.m., in some instances at 3 a.m. They aren’t allowed to sell alcohol again until 6 a.m.

The United States takes on England at 1 p.m. Friday. Holley said he expects more than 1,000 people to come out for the match and has secured a permit to block off the street. “If you want to get in here and have a place to sit down — the earlier the better,” he said. “Cannot emphasize it enough.”

Brian Munoz is a photojournalist and multimedia reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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