In the shadow of Auckland’s Eden Park stadium, a neighborhood watering hole has become a home away from home for the hordes of American fans who have traveled thousands of miles to cheer on the US team at the Women’s World Cup.
The Morningside Tavern, a cavernous bar with a sprawling outdoor patio, hosted more than a thousand US supporters Tuesday for a pregame gathering held by the American Outlaws, according to the non-profit supporter group, which has more than 200 chapters across the United States.
“To see this turnout is really fantastic,” said St. Paul, Minnesota, native Mike Householder, as he waited in line to get into the packed bar. “It’s a long way [to travel]. When we went to Canada [for the 2015 World Cup], of course, there were a lot of Yanks there, but this is New Zealand.”
Standing beside him, wearing a foam Statue of Liberty crown, US supporter Suzanne Rivera agreed.
“It’s just wonderful to see our women have such devoted fans,” she said.
Ahead of kick-off for the big game against Portugal, the atmosphere builds.
Fans cycle in and out of the bar as US classics like “Life is a Highway” and “Cotton-eyed Joe” blare over the loudspeakers. The line of fans decked out in their best red, white and blue outfits extends more than halfway down the block.
It all adds up to what bar manager Dave Gunn calls the “authentic” American atmosphere.
“It felt pretty hair-raising. Lots of stars and stripes memorabilia around the place as well. Really felt like you were walking into a bar that you see in the movies in America,” he said.
“It was great for us … to feel part of that carnival tournament atmosphere and be also like the home of the USA during the pregame.”