The most recent edition of "Drunk FIFA" at the Football Factory at Legends in New York City was, in many ways, not all that different from a standard Soccer Saturday or Soccer Sunday at the establishment. Dozens upon dozens of people gathered around television sets to watch games, supporter songs could be heard from just about every corner of the bar, and many, many alcoholic beverages were consumed. While not a perfect event, nobody who paid their money to either enter the FIFA tournament or merely enjoy the four-hour open bar could complain about not being entertained throughout the evening.
I arrived to a jam packed Football Factory at about 7 pm, one hour before the announced start of the tournament. Some there were getting in one or two more games of FIFA on TVs that, for the night, had been renamed after famous soccer stadiums. Others were merely grabbing a bite and perhaps a beer or two before the 8 pm hour. I eventually made my way through the sea of humanity to a group of friends that seemed to grow and grow as the night progressed and players were eliminated from the competition.
Due to the overall size of the tournament (128 players in all), each game of the first several rounds was a quick one-and-done whirlwind made up of two four-minute halves. This meant that, just as in real life, a single goal often made all the difference. One friend of mine was downed by a first half tally that proved to be sufficient. Another was so demoralized after surrendering a second half match-opener that he was ultimately routed after he decided to push everybody forward in search of an equalizer.
What I deemed to be the highlight of the evening came early on in the first round thanks to one Jackie Beatty. Jackie, who was playing as Italy, was facing off against a young man who had chosen Spain, arguably the best team in all of FIFA. The crowd around their television set grew and grew as Jackie, who heroically/maybe a bit luckily saved a penalty in the first half, kept the match scoreless, and some even booed when her opponent opened the scoring. Then, with only seconds left to go in the game, Jackie found an equalizer via Mario Balotelli. The match went to penalties, and at least two other games in the area were halted so that those participating could watch the shootout.
Like most good stories, this one has a happy ending. Jackie's victory was met with what was to be the loudest cheer of the night, while the defeated gent was showered with lighthearted "Who are ya?!?" chants as he congratulated the victor. On a night in which Football Factory's population was largely dominated by males, Jackie's win was the moment that was celebrated by just about all but one person in attendance.
The only real complaint about the event that has been repeated to me since Friday evening has to do with the length of the tournament. It took over five hours to determine the competition's champion. To be fair, those running the tournament did well to speed things up as the night went on, and this was also the first time that Football Factory had housed a "Drunk FIFA" night of this magnitude.
There is a wide variety of ways to spend a snowy and bitter cold evening in Manhattan. I can't think of many better than having some beers with friends while watching and playing a little FIFA. "Drunk FIFA" at the Football Factory is an event that you really have to experience in order to fully appreciate, and I'd highly recommend the next one to any FIFA/soccer fans in the area.