From Cards to Tapas, Latinos Gear Up for the World Cup

A soccer fan selling and swapping cards at Jackson Heights's 37th Ave. (Photo by Nube Urgilés via El Diario)

A soccer fan selling and swapping cards at Jackson Heights’s 37th Avenue (Photo by Nube Urgilés via El Diario)

The World Cup in Brazil won’t kick off until Thursday, but every Latino corner of the city has been gearing up for the quadrennial event for weeks, as a series of reports in El Diario/La Prensa show.

A story by Nube Urgilés published on May 29 tells of the dozens of collectors gathering daily at a Jackson Heights corner to swap soccer cards of their favorite stars.

Apart from the regular album with images of the 32 national teams that will compete in Brazil, the company Panini has created a deluxe edition for collectors. “This is for the die-hard fans,” said Luis Rojas, from Colombia.

“Panini did this collection imitating the baseball or American football card collections, which are special,” said Rojas, as he sold and swapped cards at the corner of 37th Avenue and 84th Street, in Queens.

What is more remarkable about this album is that some cards are autographed by the players themselves.

“It’s more costly, but what makes this collection attractive is its market value. If you get an autographed card, you can auction it,” said Rojas. “A card signed by (Lionel) Messi has already been sold for $2,490 in Europe.”

According to the article, the cards come in 6-unit packages for a price of $6 or $7, and a box with 24 packages sells for $125. To complete the collection of 480 images costs an estimated $600-700, although you can sell or swap the repeated cards.

Apart from the players who will participate in the upcoming World Cup, the collection also includes cards of retired stars like Brazil’s Pelé and Ronaldo Luís Nazário, or Colombia’s Carlos ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama.

“The company has secured the signatures of many famous people. That makes the collection all the more attractive,” said Rojas. (…)

Andrés Rodríguez, 20, said he started the album last week, and he has already gotten two signed cards. The native of Barranquilla, Colombia, said that the first package he bought had a card signed by Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, and that he has no intention to auction it for now.

“I’m too passionate about football,” said Rodríguez, who added: “People here have not been paying too much attention to this (deluxe collection) because it’s more of a European thing.”

In other stories, El Diario reports on Hispanic restaurants preparing to host large crowds to watch the games.

In an article published June 5, Gustavo Martínez checks out several Mexican businesses on Queens’ Roosevelt Avenue.

“We are ready to do sweepstakes and make money. The economy is getting better and it coincides with the World Cup party, so we expect a lot of people to eat and watch the games,” said Argimiro ‘Jimmy’ Gil Hernández, owner of the Aquí en Bella Puebla restaurant. “We hope the national team will get its act together and do well.”

In order to greet the soccer-loving diners, the almost 10-year-old spot has large screens and a polished Mexican menu.

“We make our tortillas by hand,” he said. “You know that with handmade tortillas food just tastes better.”

Other kitchens and cantinas along the avenue, a traditionally Latino enclave, are expecting large crowds of thirsty soccer fans.

“Many people have asked us if we are going to have the games here, so we know there is a great interest,” said César Flores, a co-owner of Juan Bar. “We also have ‘El Tortas,’ who makes his ‘tortas’ inspired by soccer teams.”

“El Tortas” is Galdino Molinero, who has taken some time off from his food truck “Tortas Neza,” to dish out his creations in the bar’s kitchen.

But the World Cup is not only about food and drinks, it’s also a question of faith. And what better way to show it than to wear the colors of the national team, in this case “El Tri,” as Salvador Horiuchi does in his religious items store La Rosa de Guadalupe.

“For this World Cup year we have lots of Niño Dios (Baby Jesus) figures dressed with the Mexican shirt (…),” said the owner of the 7-year-old business.

Juan Inga, owner of Sabor Latino in Queens, will devote two stores of the restaurant to the games  (Photo by Nube Urgilés via El Diario).

Juan Inga, owner of Sabor Latino in Queens, will devote two stories of the restaurant to the World Cup. (Photo by Nube Urgilés via El Diario)

Another story by Nube Urgilés published on June 6 focuses on other Hispanic businesses getting ready for the tournament.

Among them, the Hola España restaurant (5586 Broadway in the Bronx), whose owner Nemesio ‘Titi’ Ordóñez hired a chef (El Sergi) to prepare some Spanish cuisine specialties.

Knowing that aficionados don’t eat during the game, Ordóñez said that they will offer free tapas, with a variety of Spanish cheeses and cold cuts.

They will also have “chistorra” sandwiches, “papa alioli,” “boquerón frito,” and paella. And they will even have beers from Spain, like Estrella Damm and Mahou.

“We will try to get closer to the people. When Mexico plays, we will have Mexican food,” said Ordónez. “If Spain wins and I go crazy, it’s open bar… And if Mexico makes it to the final, free tequila.”

Juan Inga, owner of Sabor Latino restaurant (95-35 40th Road, Elmhurst, Queens), can’t hide his excitement about his national team, Ecuador, competing again at a World Cup.

A soccer fan, Inga will devote two stories of the restaurant to the games, with giant screens, 14″ plasma screens and three big projectors. “We have been preparing a lot, we know how important this sport is for our community,” he said, adding that some of the dishes will bear the names of Ecuadorean soccer players.

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