Watching the World Cup at a streetside cafe in Mexico City

In a side street behind el Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, a crowd gathers at a sidewalk bar. It’s just one or two people at first, but soon more people join them. Nobody speaks. The World Cup is starting.

Even though Mexico is not playing in this match, the game matters to the people because Brazil and Croatia are in their group. When Croatia scores first, on a Brazil own goal, the crowd is strangely silent. This is surprising, because Croatia is considered Mexico’s strongest competition to emerge from the group stage. Some people even seem disappointed.

A crowd of ten becomes 20 and then 30 as more passers-by get stuck to the crowd. People in business attire mingle with the ragged and homeless, elbow-to-elbow, competing for a view of the outdoor TV. There are tables available inside the bar. Nobody goes in.

Later in the half, Neymar’s long, rolling strike deflects off the post and into goal. The people are happy now, even though this makes things worse for Mexico. The first goal was lucky and, even worse, ugly. Neymar’s involves skill and a little bit of luck. The people want beauty.

At the halftime whistle, everyone leaves. Maybe they’re going to find a better place to watch the second half, or maybe they don’t want 20 ounces of Tecate and six buffalo wings, which is the special, and realize they can no longer ignore the waitress when the game is paused. Or maybe the great hypnotist that is the World Cup has lifted the people out of their trance, and they look around, and recall that they have somewhere to be.

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