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Bend bars host watch parties for World Cup; fans still enthusiastic, despite Qatar controversy

(Update: Adding video, comments from soccer fans, Prost! GM)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Soccer fans throughout Bend watched the highs and lows of the US Men's National Team’s 1-1 draw with Wales on Monday.

Fans gathered at several bars, including Sidelines Sports Bar in Downtown Bend, and at Prost! a German bar off Century Drive.

Prost! will air every US and Germany match except one, creating what it calls a “proper European futbol experience.”

Graeme Fallon, the Prost! general manager, said the World Cup means a lot to his bar. 

“If Bend isn’t a soccer town yet, we’re going to do our damnedest to turn it into one,” Fallon said. 

There was plenty of fan support Monday morning.

“Oh, it’s perfect -- we were hoping this place would be open for the game, but we weren’t sure until just last week,” Erik Kerr, a USA and Germany soccer fan said at Prost!

Mason Klauss, another USA Soccer fan, added, “It's not always at the forefront of the town, but when you find spots like this, it's cool to see people show out at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning.”

Controversy involving the host nation, Qatar, is not lost on the fans.   

“There's still excitement, but definitely wish the circumstances were different,” Klauss said. 

Kerr agreed: “It’s been painful to see everything happen the way it has.”

The World Cup has just begun but already has been met with controversy, including the exploitation of migrant workers to build the stadiums, the country's criminalization of homosexuality, allegations of bribery and corruption, and the last minute announcement of the ban on beer sales in the stadium.

Mitch Girard, an active soccer player and fan, does not approve of the host country’s actions. 

“I mean, Qatar has a pretty appalling human rights record, so that definitely played a part in me not wanting to watch it,” Girard said. “But at the same time, I’m here to support the other countries involved, not the country hosting.”

The other fans we spoke to agree.

Fallon: “I think soccer fans will turn out, for better or worse.”

Klauss: “The World Cup is still going to go on, so I still want to support my boys. And they missed the last one so I’m really hoping they can make a good run here.”

Kerr: “Trying to root for the players, root for the teams that are kind of stuck in that weird middle ground and still enjoy the games for them.”

If they’re watching, they might as well pick a winner.

Kerr: “I put Germany and Belgium in the finals ,actually.”

Girard: “I’m going Belgium.”

Klauss: "My heart says the U.S. but my brain says … Argentina I think Messi is finally going to get his cup.”

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

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