Germany, Argentina World Cup fans in Chicago show their true colors

Tribune reporter

Last August, Jeff Heil spent about $100,000 to buy new televisions and a sound system and break down a wall to make the ultimate World Cup viewing space in the Irving Park German restaurant his family has owned since 1977.

His investment paid off Sunday, as more than 200 German soccer fans piled into Mirabell Restaurant at 3454 W. Addison St. to watch Germany win its first World Cup title in 24 years, beating Argentina 1-0 in extra time.

“I love it,” said Heil, of Chicago. “They all come out. It brings families together and friends.”

Over the last four weeks, the restaurant hosted viewing parties for each match, but none drew nearly as many people as the final did.

Heil said he had to turn some away because there were no seats left.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “In 2010, we had parties, but it wasn't like this.”

A mile and a half away, a similar-size crowd of Argentina fans were packed like sardines in Barra N. Some fans waited outside for more than a half-hour before they could get a spot to stand in the Argentine-themed bar.

“We’re superfanatics of soccer in Argentina,” said Sergio Di Sapio, owner of Barra N. “That’s like our only passion.”
At both viewing parties, mostly avid soccer fans showed up to root for their home country or that of their ancestors or friends.

“I’m a Germany fan because of my parents,” said Heidi Zielke, 44, of Chicago, who watched the game with her 85-year-old father.

Alan Wallenberg, of Glen Ellyn, gathered with family and close friends to watch the game at Mirabell, where his sister Joanie also works.

“We’re German, of course,” said Wallenberg, 50. “We go for the German beer here all the time.”

Beth Delorit, 28, of Chicago had been rooting for the United States and Costa Rica at first, but she said she chose to cheer on Argentina in the final because that’s where her boyfriend is from.

“I’m not a huge Argentina fan,” Delorit said during the game. “But it seems like (Argentina player Lionel) Messi really deserves this.”

Others at the bar, however, were die hard Argentina fans and broke into tears as the final whistle was blown.

Carla Paez’s eyes watered as she hugged friends at the end of the game.

“It’s very emotional,” said Paez, 27, who grew up in Bahia Blanca, about 400 miles southwest of Buenos Aires. “We want to win, but it was a good game and I’m very, very proud of (the team).”

Still, she had a reason to smile, saying that she was happy to see so many fans turn up for the game.

“I’m speechless,” she said, looking around at a room full of blue and white jerseys. “It’s good.”

Fans on both sides said this year’s World Cup was one of the most exciting tournaments they’ve watched, with a handful of underdog teams doing much better than expected and others losing in untraditional fashion.

“Every team had a chance to win,” said Germany fan Sean Tuchner, 41, of Mount Prospect.

“It turned out to be a great tournament,” said Alfredo Gallardo, 46, of Chicago, who was rooting for Argentina. “I don’t think I’ve seen this many people in Chicago get into a World Cup.”
Twitter @skbaer

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette