St. Clair West after Italy won the World Cup in 2006. Photo by wvs.
It’s the flags. It always starts with the flags.They’re subtle at first—you just need to listen to the radio for long enough, and there appears a cheerful ditty about being stronger when you’re older, people calling you “freedom” (what does that even mean?), and waving a flag. A couple of months pass, and you start noticing the flags on passing cars: Portugal, Italy, is that Russia?…but who knows, maybe they were always there. Soon, small stores start appearing on the sidewalk, selling tons and tons of, yes, you guessed it, flags, all on lanyards, scarves, and caps.
Then the hockey season ends, and all hell breaks loose.
It’s a privilege to be in Toronto during a World Cup. Nearly half of our residents were born outside of Canada. It’s like a lottery—which area of the city is going to explode with joy on the evening of Sunday, July 11? Our guide to who’ll be celebrating where kicks off here, arranged according to some of the main teams Toronto is supporting.
Carlo’s Snack Bar at 818 College Street may seem more like a rec hall that hosts a Portuguese men’s club than it does a bar, but it certainly does have a liquor licence and four big TV screens, and in World Cup season that testosterone-heavy, old-country vibe may just do the trick. Another tack for Portugal fans is to take a stroll down Dundas West starting at Lansdowne and heading towards Ossington for your choice among the many identical-seeming sports bars that line that strip. Our pick among those is the Euro-Sports Bar & Cafe at 1669 Dundas Street. If you do find yourself in the neighbourhood for a match, do yourself a favour and run down to Caldense Bakery at half time for a custard tart or four.
First match: vs. Côte d’Ivoire. Tuesday, June 15, 10 a.m.
Photo by wyliepoon.
Supporting…North or South Korea?
Let’s get this out of the way first: Torontoist takes no official sides, and that includes the DMZ. So for fans of both Koreas looking for a solid bet, the Korean Canadian Cultural Centre in North York will be getting their game on and hosting celebrations. If you’re looking for a more central location in which to show your Korea pride and are willing to give something a little more offbeat a go, Koreatown residents directed us to the unlisted afterhours spot Joker Lounge in a third-floor location on the north side of Bloor at Manning. Look for the black sign with the creepy white joker face. You didn’t hear it from us.
First match (South Korea): vs. Greece. Saturday, June 12, 7:30 a.m.
First match (North Korea): vs. Brazil. Tuesday, June 15, 2:30 p.m.
The concept of an “English” area of Toronto has always been a bit tricky, unless you count most of Lakeshore West between Oakville and Burlington as Toronto (which, well, we just don’t). Midtown Toronto, around Yonge and Eglinton, is probably your best bet. The Main Event, at 2368 Yonge Street, is the favoured pub of Manchester United supporters; this may or may not be a good thing. The Duke of Kent is a short distance away at 2315 Yonge Street and has an authentic English pub feel (curry on the menu, as well as wings). The last time England won the World Cup was in 1966, a date most from the old country can’t help but remember. If England wins again, we predict a riot at any drinking establishment with a monarch in the title.
First match: vs. U.S. Saturday, June 12, 3:30 p.m.
Anybody within a cannoli’s throw away from the Corso Italia will remember the World Cup four years ago, even if they didn’t watch any games. Italy’s victory in a bad-tempered game against France had St. Clair Avenue West heaving, as well exasperated RCMP trying to clear College Street of revellers. (Here’s a video of the reaction to the winning goal.) That’s exactly where we recommend you go, of course. Cafe Diplomatico at 594 College Street has been around for years and years, and opens early with a wide-screen TV; you can bank on it being busy, though. Uptown, you’ve got your pick of sports bars west of Dufferin on St. Clair Avenue West. Donato Sports Bar, at 1310 St. Clair Avenue West, is one of many, and it seems to never close. It’s even got soccer balls in place of Os on its sign, and that’s bound to be good.
First match: vs. Paraguay. Monday, June 14, 2:30 p.m.
Ghanaians in Toronto are cautiously optimistic about team Ghana’s chances in the tournament. At the taxi rank at Union Station, a cab-driving supporter named Daniel tells Torontoist that Ghana “is going to win the cup, 100%”–though many of his pals are less sure. One friend remarks that the referees’ equal treatment of powerhouses like Germany, Italy, and Brazil will affect the odds for underdog squads like Ghana. It’s Africa’s first opportunity to host the tournament, too. He adds: “Since it’s on our soil, we won’t put up with any bullshit.” Celebrate with supporters at The Point (2111 Jane Street) and Ghana Guinea Mali (2471 Finch Avenue).
First match: vs. Serbia. Sunday, June 13, 10 a.m.
Greece also has a raucous soccer-winning history, six years ago for Euro 2004. The Fox and Fiddle might not be particularly Hellenic, but one of its locations is perfect—535 Danforth Avenue, right in Greektown—and it will be opening early.
First match: vs. South Korea. Saturday, June 12, 7:30 a.m.
Four years ago, devotees of L’Équipe Tricolore gathered in collective misery in the Theatre District as World Cup glory slipped through their fingertips. If you’re hoping for better bon chance this time for Les Bleus, the place to be is really Le St Tropez, on 315 King Street West.
First match: vs. Uruguay. Friday, June 11, 2:30 p.m.
Photo by 00dann.
Supporting…the death penalty for all soccer fans?
Of course, there are always some people who just want to say “balls” to the whole thing. And perhaps you are one of them. We sympathize. It can be hard to support traditional North American sports in Toronto sometimes, with Jays crowds increasingly sparse compared with BMO Field, and the Leafs’ trophy cabinet consisting mainly of the droppings of long-dead mice.
Torontoist thinks you should just go with the flow, though: as Stephen Marche writes in Macleans, “Failure is the reason why Toronto is such a delicious location to watch the World Cup…Torontonians are gagging for a victory party, and we’ll happily join in at somebody else’s as fully as if it were our own.”
But if you must avert your eyes from the beautiful game, let’s assume that most bars with a TV will probably be showing at least one soccer match. The TV is therefore your enemy. Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Avenue, lacks any form of gogglebox: staff tell Torontoist “this will definitely be a haven” from the World Cup. Also, it’s an Irish bar and Ireland didn’t qualify. Bring earplugs to be sure of not overhearing sport-talk.
As for specifically avoiding the first match? Well, it’s in an hour from the time this post is initially published. If you’re not watching soccer, and really want a bar at 10 a.m., probably the only socially acceptable thing you can do is hurry to Pearson, book a flight and head to an airside bar. (You’re on vacation now! It’s okay.) Try flying somewhere far, far away to get away from it all. South Africa is nice this time of year, we hear.
Introductory blurb by Quin Parker. All game start times are in Eastern Time.