Sure, you can go to any bar in New York City to catch the World Cup, but what better place to watch the first beautiful game of the 2014 tournament than the place where the world comes to settle its other differences? The United Nations.
Inside the Secretariat Building on East 42nd Street (that's the giant one that you can see across the river from Queens, not the one that looks like the setting for Dr. Strangelove) is the Delegate’s Lounge, an enormous space for ambassadors and diplomats to relax, drink, and, today, watch football. About 300 people, largely men in dark suits, crowded around two television sets and a fancy wall chart to watch today's opening match. The overwhelming majority were Brazil fans, and the vast majority of those were wearing their bright yellow jerseys over work shirts or underneath blazers. No, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, is not here. He was actually in Brazil for this very game.
The Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations, Vladimir Drobnjak, had the prime seat, front and center, and appeared relieved when Brazil scored the first goal of game — it was an own goal that gave Croatia the lead.
I stood out here with my red England shirt, and am referred to several times as simply "England." (As in, "Move out of the way, England!") Following the disastrous goal, a man in a suit put his hand on a man wearing a Brazil jersey over his Oxford shirt and said, “Sorry.” Thankfully (for most people here), Brazil scored shortly after and the crowd went wild. Everyone would politely clap for both Brazil's goals when they were replayed later.
Half time flew by as diplomats made the quick walk to the back of the Delegate's Lounge, which is where the bar is. Towards the end of the match, I witnessed at least four crates of Corona being wheeled in here, presumably for back up and to drown the sorrows of the losing side.
At the beginning of the second half, the chants started for Brazil — "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-BRASIL!" — but ended abruptly as everyone regained their composure. In the 79th minute, they started again. During Brazil's decisive penalty kick, there were clutched fists against mouths, and the same wide-eyed fear and pained faces as anywhere else in the world. Brazil scored, and all was right in the United Nations.
Croatia fought diligently, but Brazil scored a third time, sealing the deal. The Croatian supporter next to me was silent, after just screaming, "Yes! Yes! Win! Win!" at his team. "Well, it was a very good shot," he said after the third Brazilian goal.
But this being the United Nations, it was not all fun and games. Jane Stewart, the Special Representative to the United Nations for the International Labor Organization, went to the Delegate’s Lounge because today is the International Day Against Child Labor. The ILO has a campaign, "Red Card To Child Labour," that aims to put an end to the 168 million children involved in child labour, according to the ILO. “I just gave the Brazilian ambassador a red card and I want him to do a selfie with his whole team,” Stewart said. He eventually posed with the card (although it wasn't a selfie), during half time.
The United Nations is certainly a classy and elegant place to watch the World Cup. People ask you if you're "part of a mission" in a huge room with priceless woven murals hanging on the wall. But in reality, it's just the same as watching it in an enormous bar.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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