For foreign soccer fans, the World Cup remains as important as ever | Sports News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

For foreign soccer fans, the World Cup remains as important as ever

No United States in the World Cup, no problem

For foreign soccer fans, the World Cup remains as important as ever
CP photo by Sarah Wilson
Members of the University of Pittsburgh’s Egyptian Student Association

There wasn’t anything particularly malevolent about Sergio Ramos’ challenge. It wasn’t a foul, and it didn’t appear to be more vicious than most other tackles.

But Mohamed Salah landed hard on his left shoulder and stayed on the ground. When he did, it wasn’t only Liverpool fans holding their collective breath. An entire nation was urging its star forward to get up, fearful that dreams 28 years in the making were shattered.

“It was a very bad feeling,” Yassin Khalifa says. “I was so frustrated, especially because it wasn’t that hard a fall.”

That fall dislocated Salah’s left shoulder just under 25 minutes into the Champions League final May 26, only 20 days prior to Egypt’s opening match in the World Cup.

The last time Egypt was in the World Cup, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union competed, and West Germany took home the title. Egypt scored just once in that tournament, drawing twice and losing, 1-0, to England, crashing out in the group stage.

With Egypt back in the biggest spectacle in world sports, its local expatriates are ready to cheer on Salah and his teammates. 

“This is special for all Egyptians to watch,” says Khalifa, the communication director for the Egyptian Student Association at University of Pittsburgh.

Egypt will be hard-pressed to play any more than those three matches, having drawn a strong group that also contains host Russia, Saudi Arabia and two-time World Cup winner Uruguay. Most of the members of the Egyptian Student Association (primarily graduate students) weren’t alive to see the 1990 World Cup, so the group is planning to go all-out for Egypt’s three group stage matches. It will play host to watch parties on June 15, 19 and 25 at Benedum Hall on campus.

A handful of other watch parties will take place around town. Similar to the Egyptian Student Association, Carnegie Mellon University’s Iranian Student Association will gather for campus watch parties for all three of Iran’s group stage matches.

For those who don’t have a vested rooting interest — the United States missed this year’s cut, as did Italy, Ireland and Netherlands — Piper’s Pub in the South Side will open its doors as early as 6 a.m,. and show every match of the tournament. The Pittsburgh Bottleshop Cafe in Bridgeville will also have the matches on, with beer flowing.

Even without the U.S. in the World Cup, there’s nothing that truly compares to the worldwide spectacle that pits underdogs, such as Egypt and Iran, against giants like Germany, Argentina and (usually) Italy.

“Football is already a very huge thing, but the World Cup is different,” Khalifa says.

Egypt World Cup watch parties

  • 8 a.m. Fri., June 15. Benedum Hall, Room 1145, 3700 O’Hara St., Oakland.
  • 2 p.m., Tue., June 19. Benedum Hall, Room 1145, 3700 O’Hara St., Oakland.
  • 10 a.m. Mon., June 25. Benedum Hall, Room 102, 3700 O’Hara St., Oakland.

Iran World Cup watch parties

  • 11 a.m. Fri., June 15. Hamerschlag Hall, Room B131, Hamerschlag Dr., Oakland.
  • 2 p.m. Wed., June 20. Doherty Hall, Room 2315, Hamerschlag Dr., Oakland.
  • 2 p.m. Mon., June 25. Scaife Hall, Room 219, 4805 Frew St., Oakland.

Piper’s Pub watch parties

  • Daily, June 14-July 25. 1828 E. Carson St., South Side.

The Pittsburgh Bottleshop Cafe watch parties

  • Daily, June 14-July 25. 1597 Washington Pike, Bridgeville.