How Sydney's soccer fans are celebrating the World Cup

If ‘‘soccer is our food’’, as Stephen Yaw Derkyi says, then the World Cup is a banquet for Ghana supporters.

Now the tournament has kicked off, Mr Yaw Derkyi, of St Clair, will willingly sacrifice sleep to devour hours of football with fellow members of the Sydney Ghanaian community.

''It’s all we talk about,’’ he said. ‘‘Football is a game that brings the whole community together. It’s a bridge to link all the tribes.’’

For the next few weeks multicultural Sydneysiders will be donning their team colours in the pre-dawn cold, watching the broadcasts from Brazil in pubs, clubs and living rooms.

Almost half of Australia’s Brazilian-born population of 14,500 lives in NSW. A vocal crowd of them gathered at the Braza Brazilian barbecue restaurant in Darling Harbour for the opening game of the tournament on Friday.

‘‘It’s boring if you watch by yourself,’’ said Wilna Carvalho who, along with her compatriots, cheered the highly-fancied hosts to victory against Croatia. ‘‘It’s good to get everyone together for the same purpose.’’

Matches may be scheduled at inhospitable hours – 2am, anyone? – but Dinko Lerotic said: ‘‘That’s never stopped anyone who’s into football.’’

Like hundreds of other Croatia fans, Mr Lerotic watched Friday’s game at the King Tom Club in Edensor Park.

‘‘It’s been a tradition since I was a little kid, everybody going to the club as mates, as a community, to get together,’’ he said. ‘‘Football is in the blood. When you’re born the first thing you’re given is a jersey from one of your soccer teams in the village where [your family] was brought up in Croatia.’’

The club is home to Sydney United 58 FC, which nurtured Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak. There are six players of Croatian background in the Australian squad, meaning plenty of Croatia fans will be doing double duty in front of television screens during the World Cup.

‘‘It’s exciting because you’ve got two teams to support and Australia is in a different group to Croatia,’’ Mr Lerotic said.

With Australia in a ''group of death'' against the Netherlands, Chile and defending champions Spain, and world rankings placing them at the bottom of the World Cup qualifiers, Socceroos fans may be looking for another team to back at the tournament’s end.

In Leichhardt, the choice is obvious.

‘‘If you’re not supporting Italy, you’re not allowed to work here,’’ joked Joe Napoliello, owner of Bar Sport on Norton Street. The cafe sold out of tickets for games featuring Australia and Italy this weekend, and will open from 2am from the second week of the World Cup to cater for fans of all stripes.

‘‘One thing I’m grateful for is that we own a coffee shop – there’s plenty of caffeine around to keep us awake,’’ Mr Napoliello said. ‘‘There will be a lot of buzz. Everyone will be around watching the games, talking about the games. The best players in the world are on show and they want to watch it. It’s a football feast.’’

The story How Sydney's soccer fans are celebrating the World Cup first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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