The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

GQ gives props to Atlanta’s Brewhouse Café

Even the fashion magazines are getting World Cup fever, and a slice of soccer nirvana well-known to many Atlantans is getting some national (even global) attention for its local reputation.

GQ Magazine has named the Brewhouse Café in Little Five Points as one of the “best soccercentric bars in America,” sharing that billing with some other vaunted footy watering holes, two of which this blogger has sampled for herself: Summer’s in Arlington, Va., and Fadó Irish Pub in Seattle.

The others are Woodwork in Brooklyn, Cock ‘N Bull Pub in Los Angeles and The Globe Pub in Chicago.

In its mini-reviews (available only in the print magazine), GQ writes that the Brewhouse will be “setting up a tent in the parking lot for match viewings on 3-D TVs.”

That’s all they said, since these truly were thumbnail reviews.

As those of you who have haunted that place know, the parking lot at the Brewhouse is rather small, but outside viewing should relieve some of the packed throngs inside.

The Fadó location in Buckhead has sent out its own “World Cup Media Alert” on Twitter. I especially like the link to “The Free Beer Movement” site, with its objective of “building American soccer one beer at a time.” A new one on me.

Here’s GQ’s online World Cup guide, which includes a Q and A with new fashion boy Oguchi Onyewu, among other things.

Trying not to be outdone, Vanity Fair has a fairly decent World Cup blog, and you might have noticed the beefcake cover of the magazine this month with Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo. They were among the World Cup stars (along with Landon Donovan) who gladly went before the cameras for Annie Leibovitz.

This was shot well before the final rosters were due, since Brazil’s Pato and Michael Ballack of Germany are featured:

May 27, 2010   No Comments

Fans wanting MLS in Atlanta keep the faith

They’ve got the makings of a Web site and a Facebook page that’s up and running, with nearly 200 fellow travelers having signed up thus far. If you want to pledge allegiance to their cause, you can even buy a T-shirt (right, below) that leaves little doubt as to what you want. And by all means, don’t hesitate to Tweet them up.

Just be prepared to wait a while for your dreams to come true.

Getting all shirty over MLS in Atlanta.

Getting all shirty over MLS in Atlanta.

Despite the euphoria over two well-attended matches at the Georgia Dome this summer and Atlanta’s bid as a potential World Cup venue, the city remains an elusive blip on the radar of Major League Soccer, as it has for most of the league’s 13-year history.

After withdrawing his bid for a Major League Soccer franchise in December, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has placed any future aspirations to apply again in a holding pattern due to the sour economy. But a fledgling band of fans is forging ahead anyway, drumming up grassroots support for what they hope will be an eventual MLS presence in Atlanta.

They call themselves B.O.S.S. — the Brotherhood of Southern Soccer. They’ve fashioned their efforts after a fan group in Philadelphia, Sons of Ben, which launched an MLS crusade a few years ago. The honorific is for Ben Franklin, and next year those SoBs — that really is how they call themselves – will have a team to cheer for, as the Philadelphia Union joins MLS as an expansion franchise.

A number of B.O.S.S. aficionadoes Tweeted and took pictures from the Dome last week, proclaiming the city ready for big-time soccer on a regular basis:

“Official attendance at Georgia Dome: 50,306. In Atlanta. On a Wednesday night. In late July. Who says the south can’t support soccer??”

One of the driving forces behind B.O.S.S. believes the Dome exhibitions were exactly what Atlanta needed to make its case.

“We’ve never had the chance to show the rest of the country what was there, what the potential has been in Atlanta,” said Will Clearman, a former Woodstock High and Mercer University soccer player, who is now a naval engineer in Washington, D.C. “We never had a place to play big international games until now. Now there’s a serious chance of something happening.”

Soccer fans from all over the Southeast turned out to see Mexico. Would they do the same for an MLS team? (photo by David Tulis)

Soccer fans from all over the Southeast turned out to see Mexico. Would they do the same for an MLS team? (photo by David Tulis)

At least the prospects for MLS are stronger than they’ve been, especially with local ownership interest having surfaced. But significant roadblocks remain, even though the league has always had Atlanta in mind.

“MLS would like to have a presence in the Southeast and Atlanta is a large international city that is headquarters to major global corporations such as Coca-Cola and The Home Depot,” MLS vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche replied in an e-mail. “We also believe Atlanta is a strong soccer market and think an MLS team would appeal to the growing international population in Georgia.”

But . . . and the same “but” still applies:

“Atlanta’s biggest challenge for landing a future expansion team is that it currently does not have an appropriate venue for an MLS team,” Courtemanche added.

In 2000 there was a local effort to create something called the Atlanta Soccer Village, with an MLS-specific stadium as its centerpiece. But that idea never went anywhere. Neither did a last-ditch effort to save the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for soccer use. The Atlanta Silverbacks, who have suspended participation in the United Soccer Leagues (a notch below MLS), several years ago built the shell of what might have been an MLS-standard stadium near the 285/85 intersection. But the location and lack of parking are among its drawbacks, and the future of that organization is uncertain.

So here we go again.

The facility issue could be solved if Blank ever builds a new Falcons stadium that he has envisioned as a public/private collaboration, with the most likely site at the former General Motors plant in Doraville.

That’s a very big “if” because the recession that Blank cited for scotching his initial application to MLS looms even larger now, especially with pace of the recovery in question.

“What it boils down to is the economic environment at this time,” said Kim Shreckengost, the executive vice president and chief of staff of AMB Group LLC, the parent company of the Falcons. “It’s not appropriate for us to pursue that now.”

Plenty of obstacles remain for MLS to come to Atlanta. (photo by David Tulis)

Plenty of obstacles remain for MLS to come to Atlanta. (photo by David Tulis)

The MLS bid grew out of what Shreckengost said was a result of long-term strategic planning several years ago as AMB was “looking at growth opportunities” both in the sports realm and for further civic engagement.

Even after Blank withdrew his MLS bid, the Falcons organization helped promote both matches at the Dome, and it is represented on Atlanta’s World Cup bid committee. But Shreckengost said she could not indicate definitively when Blank may make another MLS bid: “I can’t until there is a clearer [economic] picture.”

MLS, which is in the process of adding four teams to grow to 18 by the start of the 2011 season, hasn’t stipulated when, and how many, teams might follow after that. There has been some speculation that the league could grow to 20 teams by 2012 or 2013. The owner of the USL’s Montreal Impact has been indicating publicly that his team will be admitted to MLS.

Watching from afar is Clearman, whose fan days here go back to attending Ruckus games in the mid-1990s and who remains convinced that Atlanta is an MLS-worthy market. He cites the packed crowds that frequently watch English and international matches at soccer watering holes like the Brewhouse Café in Little Five Points. Even as a Georgia Tech graduate student, he’d get up early on the weekends to get a good seat.

But does that signify enough interest in MLS?

“That’s how some people used to talk about Toronto, that those people were nothing but Eurosnobs,” Clearman responded.

The Canadian city that also drew paltry crowds for its former USL team is now an MLS hotbed, with Toronto FC games at its 20,000-seat home venue frequently sold out. “If that can happen there, I think it can happen in Atlanta too.”

However another MLS bid might proceed, Clearman advises those striving to bring a team to Atlanta to work closely with its fan base.

“If they’re serious, then there’s a lot they can gain from the people who support them.”

July 29, 2009   3 Comments

Some appetizers for a big soccer day in Atlanta

Thought I’d pass along some great reads from the world of soccer in the hours leading up to today’s U.S. vs. Spain match in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup and Atlanta’s first international match tonight at the Georgia Dome between Mexico and Venezuela. I’ve tried to find links that have some resonance with the soccer scene in Atlanta, or some other connection to the city, but I don’t want to get too provincial here either:

• John Turnbull is an Atlanta soccer writer, book editor and creator of The Global Game site, a fabulous compendium of stories about the culture of soccer around the world. He’s been in South Africa for the Confederations Cup and here writes about how preparations for next year’s World Cup are resonating through that society:

“Officials do not duck the paradox that affluence and tin-shack construction exist in proximity. Highway reconstruction from the Cape Town airport to downtown draws close to squatters’ settlements in plain view. “That is the reality of South Africa,” says the coordinator of World Cup preparations in Western Cape province, Laurine Platzky. She mentions forced migrations during apartheid and South Africa’s attraction to asylum seekers. She rejects that the shacks somehow be hidden from view. Yet earlier this month the Constitutional Court approved an order evicting 20,000 residents of the Joe Slovo settlement, what one of the advocates for the settlers, Sandra Liebenberg, calls the largest sanctioned eviction since apartheid.”

• We’ve entered a long, hot soccer summer in North America, with the prominent club and national teams of Latin America and Europe headed for these shores. Mentioned are the Mexican tour and the World Football Challenge series that includes a July 22 match at the Georgia Dome between Club América and AC Milan. While some MLS fans complain that their league is getting overshadowed, MLS commissioner Don Garber says it’s part of continuing to establish a culture of spectator soccer in North America:

“There was a time when folks in this country were afraid of international soccer. They saw it as competition. We look at it as an aspirational position we should achieve at some point. . . . We can either hide from it or embrace it.”

• American soccer blogging superstar du Nord sits down with Peter Wilt, CEO of the Chicago Red Stars of Women’s Professional Soccer and formerly the GM of the MLS Chicago Fire. This is Wilt’s foray into management of the women’s game, and he makes a shrewd observation that new Atlanta Beat owner Fitz Johnson and his cohorts would do well to keep in mind. The WUSA did engage in girl power and some social advocacy, but not to the degree that is seen in women’s basketball. WPS has to avoid falling into that trap if it wants to successfully market itself beyond its base of young girls and their families:

“I think in women’s soccer there’s a sense that it should be promoted as a cause, a social cause for women’s rights. Girl Power. That was never the case with MLS or men’s soccer. WPS in general, and Chicago in particular, made a point of saying no, this is about entertainment. This is a great athletic sport. It’s absolutely a good thing for women and a good thing for girls. But we really believe that the product as a sport, as entertainment, is worthy of your investment.”

• And finally, the U.S. Soccer site has named Atlanta’s Brewhouse Café as its June bar of the month. That’s been my soccer oasis in Atlanta for many years, and I just may head down there this afternoon to catch the Confederations Cup before going over to the Dome.

What a great day of soccer in Atlanta beyond!

June 24, 2009   2 Comments