DOWNTOWN — Looking for a place to watch Saturday’s highly anticipated World Cup match between England and the United States?
If so, Santa Monica is home to a number of British-themed watering holes that are sure to be abuzz with both Brits and Americans cheering on their teams — and a little light-hearted trash talk is sure to fill the air
You’ll likely be waiting to get in the door with dozens of passionate fans who have made a habit of frequenting the pub early Saturday mornings to watch live broadcasts of their favorite soccer teams. What do many of these fans have in common? They’re all members of Santa Monica’s sizable British expatriate community.
There’s not much confusion as to why they’ll be showing up in force: Saturday’s game between their native and adopted countries just might be the best such matchup ever, and watching it live at the local British pub should provide a little taste of home.
“I watched the last World Cup there and also in 2002, which was great,” said Richard Taylor, manager of soccer club O’Briens FC, part of the Santa Monica-based Los Angeles Premier League. “It’s just the atmosphere, and obviously everyone’s rooting for England. And that would be on the same level as an English pub, wouldn’t it?”
Santa Monica is home to perhaps the largest British ex-pat population — as many as 5,000, Cock ‘n Bull owner Tony Moogan estimates — in the U.S. It’s no surprise, then, that the World Cup and Saturday’s match in particular have been popular discussion topics in recent weeks.
“Literally every other phone call is about the game — how we’re handling it, what time we open,” said Lisa Powers, operations manager of Ye Olde King’s Head, another of Santa Monica’s three British pubs. “I’m probably having 80 e-mails a day with regards to this game.
The excitement hasn’t been limited to the British community. Moogan, who has owned the Cock ‘n Bull for more than two decades, has seen a steady rise in the number of American soccer-watching patrons.
“If you go back 20 years ago, it was 95 percent British. Now, 20 years later, it’s 50-50 Americans and British. You can see that it’s completely changed,” Moogan said.
This development in the customer bases of the pubs has only strengthened the anticipation.
“It’s got a really nice vibe about it,” Powers said. “It’s all friendly banter between the English and Americans right now.”
Moogan went a step further in predicting that even his own fellow countrymen will be rooting for the U.S. to go far at the World Cup in South Africa.
“All the English fans, they all want the USA to go through. The people who live here, they want soccer to be successful in the USA. If the U.S. does well, it will expand the game in this country,” Moogan said, adding that he is hoping Saturday’s match will be a draw.
But for some, including Taylor, there will be no cheering for anyone but the homeland, regardless of where they live — and whom they live with.
“I’m no way rooting for the U.S.,” said Taylor, whose wife is American, laughing. “I’m hoping for England to win significantly against the U.S.”