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Soccer Tue Jan 13 2009

Watching Soccer in Bars: The Abbey Pub

Even with the MLS in its offseason, the great thing about being a soccer fan (and the awful thing about dating a soccer fan, according to some) is that it's always soccer season somewhere. And in Chicago there is no shortage of bars to watch a game and have a beer, even if the game kicks off at six in the morning. I'll be spending the rest of the offseason filling you in on the various places to check out games.

The Place:
Mostly known as a music venue, The Abbey Pub was one of the few places that advertised live English Premier League soccer when I moved to Chicago back in 2000. I caught a great day of World Cup Qualifying there in 2001 with the entire music room filled with Polish and English fans going mental. Since then, it's been eclipsed first by Ginger's Ale House and then The Globe. But I thought it would be a good idea to check in on the first soccer bar I visited in town, since I hadn't heard much about it lately.

The Match:
Chelsea vs Manchester United, two of the "Big Four" teams in the English Premier League

The Atmosphere:
When I opened the door, I could see why nobody has been talking about the place in years. For one of the biggest games of the season, there were a grand total of eight people in the bar. While the low-key, locals only vibe was a bit intimidating, it was refreshing to walk into a bar to watch a soccer game that wasn't completely packed with people in $80 replica jerseys, trying to advertise just how into soccer they were. The closest anyone at the Abbey came to that was a tasteful polo shirt - well, I'd call it tasteful if it weren't for the fact that it featured a Manchester United logo. Everyone in the bar spoke with a thick Irish accent, except that one mainstay of every soccer bar I've ever been to: the middle aged American guy that doesn't know a lot about soccer, but is really just excited there's a bar to drink in at ten in the morning.

The Food/The Booze:
If you don't consider baked beans a part of a nutritious balanced breakfast you're out of luck. That's all The Abbey serves in the way of breakfast. The full lunch menu is available though. Burgers for breakfast anyone? As for beer, there isn't anything too fancy here, with pints of Guinness or bottles of MGD being the poisons of choice.

The Smack Talk:

The good thing about being in a bar that is almost empty is you can hear all of the smack being talked. Like every other bar in the city, The Abbey has a noticeable lack of Chelsea support. But the Irish guy in the Manchester United shirt made his own fun, winding up a fan of Manchester United's title rival Liverpool. Popular topics included:

  • Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's recent tirade about Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson

  • The fact that the scorer of Manchester United's second goal was Wayne Rooney, whose career started at Liverpool's crosstown rival, Everton, or "some guy from Liverpool," as he became known in the bar

  • The Liverpool fan's ardent desire to see a draw, since both teams couldn't possibly lose

  • That Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was a whining, moaning, diving cheater.

The bar's lone Chelsea fan did get one good line in though. "They need to bring back Avram Grant," he said as he got up to leave. It's actually a pretty funny line if you're nerdy enough to have followed the managerial soap opera at Chelsea since Russian oil billionaire (he might only be a millionaire now) Roman Abramovic took over. In my defense, it got a good laugh from the bar, which I badly needed after watching my team take such a miserable beating.

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Ken GreenAuthor Profile Page / January 14, 2009 9:36 AM

Wow, GREAT column, Steve. Funny AND informative. Can't beat that.

FCU / January 14, 2009 10:30 AM

Great article. Lunked to it. Keep them coming!

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