Things are going to be rocking at Finn McCool’s for the next few weeks.
The Mid-City pub at Banks and Telemachus streets is the hub of activity for the New Orleans soccer community, never more so than during the World Cup.
Every match from Brazil will air on the bar’s multiple TV screens, with flag-waving patrons from the participating countries on hand to show their patriotism, not to mention their shared fervor for the sport.
“I love how everyone at Finn McCool’s cares about soccer the way that I do,” said David Soto, a local doctor originally from Colombia.
Soto recently watched Liverpool compete against Manchester City — an intense face-off in the English Premier League.
“People were having drinks and cheering when their team made a good play or suffering because their team wasn’t doing well,” he said. “Overall, everyone was enjoying a good time.”
This inviting atmosphere is what owner Stephen Patterson envisioned when he opened Finn McCool’s in 2002.
He searched for soccer games on obscure satellite channels and began airing them in the pub. The news spread among local soccer fans.
“It was important for everyone to fly their own colors and feel comfortable pulling for their team — which you wouldn’t feel back in the United Kingdom,” Patterson said.
Born in Northern Ireland, Patterson moved to New Orleans 25 years ago.
“The sports bar has come about because people wanted a connection with where they came from,” he said. “And the biggest connection the world has is football.”
Local author Stephen Rea, who has written a book about Finn McCool’s post-Katrina revival, agreed.
“If you go to a pub in another country, everyone is rooting for that country,” the native of Northern Ireland said. “Most bars back home would have a policy that you cannot wear a soccer shirt because it starts trouble. But here, things are different.”
Over the past 12 years, McCool’s has acquired a loyal following.
Patterson credits the pub’s popularity to the power of social media, word of mouth and savvy research by soccer fans. The staff of Finn McCool’s performs charity work and sends out a newsletter that includes information about upcoming events — from block parties to drunken spelling bees and karaoke nights.
The bar features a stellar selection of draft beers and airs soccer games, along with other sporting events, throughout the year.
Both Rea and Patterson have been instrumental in creating the community feel of Finn McCool’s while also contributing to the local soccer scene.
After Rea moved to New Orleans 10 years ago, he searched for a place to play soccer and celebrate his love for the sport. He stumbled across the Finn McCool’s website and emailed Patterson.
Patterson responded: “Come on down and meet the lads.”
Rea soon discovered an eclectic mix of soccer fans, both locals and ex-pats from other countries. He even formed a club soccer team and joined a league.
“You almost have to be more of a fanatical soccer fan to live in New Orleans than you do if you live back home,” Rea said. “Back home, we are smacked over the head with it, all of the time.”
Patterson said the pub was packed during the 2010 World Cup. That event took place in South Africa, so the live games streamed at odd times. Yet, there were always a few dedicated fans sipping chilled beers at the bar, with their eyes glued to the television.
“We have people that will come, no matter what team is playing,” Patterson said.
Because the matches for this World Cup will be shown throughout the day and in the early evening, he is expecting large crowds.
In fact, Finn McCool’s will host a challenge to determine the most devoted soccer fan. The person who frequents the bar for the most games — or possibly every game — will win a prize.
It will offer beer specials — a bucket of five for the price of four — and international brews, including beers the bar usually does not have in stock. In addition to traditional pub grub from Boo Koo BBQ daily, it will serve fare that represents various parts of the world — in accordance with each match. “It gives fans a little taste of home,” Patterson said.
When the U.S. national team plays, Finn McCool’s likely will be packed with a group of local soccer fans known as the Bayou Militia. This troupe displayed unwavering support for the Americans during their fight for a World Cup berth.
Rea and Patterson are hoping for a U.S. winning streak, as well. “We’re United States citizens, and we’re very proud of that,” Patterson said. The U.S. team, which was placed in a bracket dubbed the “group of death,” faces stiff competition: Germany, Portugal and Ghana. But sometimes, the underdog triumphs.
“A (U.S.) win would be great for Finn McCool’s, for the city and for soccer in general,” said Rea. “It would be an outstanding achievement.”