David Gubala, a Chicago Soccer sporting goods chain regional manager, was anxious Thursday — not so much about the match between the United States and Germany. Instead, he was worried that Ghana would beat Portugal and knock the U.S. out of contention.
When Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal scored the winning goal against Ghana, Gubala was so happy, he started crying.
In part, Gubala was happy because he's a U.S. soccer fan. But he also had the store's performance in mind. He knew that if the U.S. remained in the tournament, more customers would visit Chicago Soccer's four stores and buy more jerseys, T-shirts and soccer balls.
"I've been a hard-core U.S. fan for a very, very long time," he said. "But when you're working in a store like this, you're always looking at the business side of things, every minute, every second."
The World Cup has been a blessing for many Chicago businesses, which have had an influx of fans buying regalia and cheering their teams over food and drink. Many business owners said the 2014 World Cup has brought a bigger turnout than any previous tournament.
Mike Jannusch, who has owned Sedgwick's Bar & Grill since 1999, has seen the restaurant become a gathering place for Dutch expatriates. In 2000, about 15 of them stopped in to watch the Netherlands play in the European Championship. Since then, word of mouth and advertising have swelled the group.
Now, the matches fill the restaurant, with native Dutch drinking Grolsch beer and eating bitterballen, Jannusch said.
"It will be jampacked," Jannusch predicted.
While Grant Park on Thursday hosted thousands of Chicagoans cheering on the U.S., dozens of area bars have catered to Chicago's array of ethnicities.
The DANK Haus German American Cultural Center in the Lincoln Square neighborhood has served as a focal point for local fans of Germany's team. The center has been hosting World Cup viewing parties since 2006, and the crowds have gotten bigger every tournament, executive director Nicholle Dombrowski said.
"They just pour in decked in black and red and gold," she said, referring to the colors of the country's flag. "The fans are intense, intense, these Germans."
DANK Haus is nonprofit, but it charges $5 for a Stiegl Radler beer and $5 for a bratwurst from Schmeisser's Sausage and Meats in Niles. On Saturday, when Germany played Ghana, the center took in a couple of thousand dollars. "But we invested in new AV equipment, so it was probably a wash," Dombrowski said.
During Thursday's match between Germany and the U.S., more than 100 Germans and German-Americans crowded into a bar on the second floor of the cultural center to watch on five big-screen televisions. The colors of the German flag were everywhere — on jerseys, leis and fuzzy wigs. A handful of bartenders rushed this way and that to supply the crowd with beer.
Many of the crowd members said they managed to get a day off work to watch. Ruben Del Villar, of Glendale Heights, was lucky — he always has Thursday off.
Del Villar, who is Mexican-American, has no connection to Germany. But he roots for the team because he admires the "brute force" playing style. He prepared to watch the match at DANK Haus — it was his first time there — by learning common German phrases on Google Translate.
"I like the feeling when you're in a bar and someone scores," he said. "The eruption."
A block away, Bill Platt and Tom Fencl were taking the day off from Access Group Inc., a real estate company where they work, to watch at Chicago Brauhaus, a German restaurant. They ate German beef and German pretzels and drank German beer — but rooted for the United States.
To make this clear, Fencl wore a red, white and blue sequin vest. Platt dressed as an American eagle in an Uncle Sam outfit — a costume he rented for $95 from Fantasy Costumes on the Northwest Side.
"I just like the patriotic — obviously — part of it," Platt said, with the eagle mask tucked under his arm. "Rallying, national pride."
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