The atmosphere at PJ Ryan’s in Somerville, MA, was palpable. For Ireland’s first match of the UEFA Euro tournament, the pub was full to the brim with revelers. Fans of all ages gathered to see the Irish national team take on the Croatians. After an early Croatian goal, the libations flowed liberally.
The difference between soccer and many American sports lies in the camaraderie felt between fans. In America fan allegiances are divided even within cities, let alone the entire country. Especially in the Euro tournament, fans can find solace or encouragement in their fellow countrymen.
As seen at PJ Ryan’s on Sunday, soccer can bring a whole community together. With even passersbies stopping outside to check the score, for a couple of hours Sunday there was a real sense of solidarity in Somerville.
A questionable Croatian goal (replays show the goal scorer was clearly offside) led to a more somber feel in the pub.
A patron at halftime was forced to wonder, “Is Croatia this good, or is Ireland just this bad?”
Unfortunately, a quick score just minutes into the second half put the game ultimately out of reach. Still, the support system in place because of soccer’s familiar atmosphere, the patrons rallied and conjured up some hope for the final forty minutes.
The breaks seemed to go toward the Croatian team down the stretch. An uncalled offside’s here, a blown penalty call there and Ireland found itself 0-1 to start the UEFA Euro tournament.
Late chances towards the end elicited life from a hopeful crowd, but Ireland just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
Even though this match did not go as planned, fans know there is much soccer left to be played. The game may have ended, but the tournament has only just begun. As the match wound down, families and friends fathered to head home, looking forward to the next match.
Though dampened, their spirits were not crushed. The team lives to play another match and, once again, the Irish community will gather as a family at a local pub to cheer on the Boys in Green.
Ireland will faceoff against the heavily favored Spanish team this Thursday.