I can't believe the World Cup tournament is almost over!
I've had so much fun with this over the past month and I expect to endure some serious blogging and football withdrawal after Sunday. So, when the Toronto Star invited all of the World Cup Voices bloggers to Real Sports Bar to blog the semi-finals, I couldn't resist.
Real Sports Bar is a new venue in Maple Leaf Square that opened this past June. I took a look at its website in preparation for the blog fest and came to the conclusion that Real Sports Bar is the lovechild of 24's CTU and Eurovision - lots of TV screens and neon. After being there, I still feel comfortable in making that assertion.
When I arrive, there is a long lineup snaking out of the entrance and I pass a trio of disappointed Spain fans who have been unable to secure a table, one of whom mumbles: "Oh well, we tried..."
I have to admit to being slightly overwhelmed by the turnout but notice a large sign welcoming the Toronto Star bloggers so I take that as an invitation to bypass the queue and introduce myself to a hostess who quickly shows me to blogger central.
I settle in on a stool at a long, counter height, table directly in front of the biggest TV screen I have seen in my life. Our location is like being in the front row at an Imax theatre.
Some of my virtual colleagues have already arrived and I am happy to finally meet them in person. Almost everyone is rooting for Germany in this match against Spain; John tells me that his mother is Dutch and his father German so he's hoping for those two teams to be in the final. I haven't decided who to cheer for yet. I figure my emotions will take over at some point and then I'll know.
We are soon joined by Todd and Stefan and a photographer from the Star does a quick interview with each of us. First the welcome sign, now a photo op? I'm starting to feel kind of special...
By the time we all have our laptops and cameras unpacked and drinks in hand, the match has begun.
The crowd at Real Sports Bar is definitely the biggest I have watched a match on yet, and as far as I can tell most people are Germany fans. Another blogger, Jane, arrives and tells me that there about 200 Spain fans outside, in the sweltering heat, watching the game on another giant screen TV mounted on the Air Canada Centre. The conclusion I draw from this is that Germany's fans like to plan ahead and make reservations.
As the match progresses, Spain is dominating the play, and I'm feeling pretty invested in everything that team does; the names I'm remembering are Villa, Ramos, Xavi... When Spain scores in the second half I jump off of my stool and cheer, arms raised high. Looks like I'm rooting for Spain in this one; and it turns out there are at least a few Spain fans who managed to make it into the bar after all.
Soon after Spain scores, our waiter arrives with dessert that Jane and I have ordered. My slice of cake is akin to the TV screen - the biggest piece of dessert I have ever seen. I remark to Todd that my cake looks like a house; he responds, more specifically, that it looks like a ski chalet. Todd is right.
Too soon, it's all over. Spain has defeated Germany 1-0 and is advancing to the finals. I try to console John by joking that now his family can watch the game, united. He laughs, joking: "Yes, now my parents can stay together."
As for me, I say my goodbyes and Jane and I walk together to Union Station. Remembering that there are only two games left, I feel a little sad. However, I'm also excited because I have decided to go to Brazil for 2014! The planning starts now... Who's with me?About Tara Howe