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In Chicago, World Cup revolves around The Globe

From the Saturday, June 21, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

new-globeSoccer may be considered the world’s sport.

But in Chicago, it belongs to The Globe.

And on Monday morning when I walked into The Globe – the North Side pub that’s twice been voted the country’s best soccer bar by the U.S. Soccer Federation – all of the seats already belonged to somebody else.

Even though it wasn’t yet 11:30 a.m.

“The staff got here at 8, and we had already had a line of people wanting to get in by 9,” my bartender told me while she poured a pint of Spanish beer as the World Cup match between Germany and Portugal prepared to begin in Brazil. “I can’t believe how many U.S. fans are here already.”

The American team wasn’t set to play Ghana for more than five hours, but two guys next to me wearing U.S. soccer jerseys and stars-and-stripes scarves already were setting up Fireball whisky shots on the bar.

Viva, la futbol.

Located at 1943 W. Irving Park Road in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, The Globe opened in 2004 as the brainchild of Scotland native Stuart Johnston, a former semi-professional soccer player who first arrived in the Windy City during the early 1990s to work for Accenture and couldn’t find a good bar where he could watch his favorite sport.

“Everywhere I went in the world there would be an Irish pub somewhere with a whole gang of guys standing around like an 18-inch TV on a chair, on a table,” Johnston told ESPN Chicago four years ago during the 2010 World Cup. “That was the concept of a sports bar in a lot of places. Coming over here, there wasn’t a great venue to go to. That’s why we thought, ‘Yeah, there is a market for this.’ Soccer isn’t big in America, but there’s a good demand, and if you do it right, the people will come.”

And they do. Often, The Globe – which sports one of the city’s most diverse imported beer lists and boasts a wealth of international soccer memorabilia on its walls – will open before dawn for fans to watch Premier League games in England. However, the numbers that show up for those matches are nothing like the ones that pour into the pub for the World Cup.

On Tuesday, Johnston told the Chicago Tribune that he’s already noticed a stronger turnout so far for the 2014 World Cup games compared to years past. Part of that likely has to do with U.S. fan-friendly start times down in Brazil, but much of it surely has to do with the increasing popularity of soccer in the U.S.

“It’s going to keep getting bigger,” said Brent, a soccer lifer from Rogers Park that I befriended at The Globe. “More kids are sticking with it.”

As Johnston told the Tribune, “There are far more fans (this year). On Saturday, we closed the doors at 11 a.m. (because we were at capacity) and it was one-in-one-out until 7 p.m. We had people waiting outside at 8 a.m.

“One of the guys was wearing an Ivory Coast shirt. I told him ‘You realize they don’t play until 8 p.m., right?’ and he said ‘Yeah, I just want to be sure I get in.’ (On Monday,) we closed the doors at 3:30 p.m. And that was a work day.”

Not for those packing the pub at midday on Monday. As Germany routed Portugal 4-0, one patron poked fun at a fellow fan wearing Portugese colors by saying, “Weren’t you here with a French jersey the other day? And a Brazilian jersey the day before that?”

Who knows what jersey that guy will be in today. But he’ll surely be at The Globe.