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The consensus at the Football Factory, a downtown Toronto bar and restaurant, is it’s a pity Mexico is out of this World Cup. The fans of Mexico were the best, the most deliriously cheerful and good-natured of them all. The fans of Iran weren’t far behind.

There’s a precious, lovely space to be located between being at a World Cup in the host country and simply watching it at home on your TV. That special space is the bars of Toronto, this most poly-cultural of cities. There’s long been an acknowledgment that watching the World Cup in a Portuguese, Italian, German or (name one of the 32 countries at the tournament) hangout here is a blast. It’s a bit of an Anglo cliché, mind you, this view, and frankly, a bit patronizing.

The great thing about the Football Factory is that it is an ecumenical place of worship for soccer fans. It’s not a British bar, a German bar or a Spanish stomping ground. It’s just soccer for everyone. And the warren of nooks, crannies, booths and bar stools allows multiple groups of fans of competing teams to assemble and mix.

One recent evening, I dropped by and co-owner Chrissy was sweeping up after a packed day of matches and hordes of drinking, eating supporters. “What’s been the best vibe here?” I asked her. She leaned on the broom and thought. “The Portugal-Spain game,” she said. “It was so intense, it was bedlam in here, sweet bedlam, and you knew it was a classic because it was so intense and emotional here.”

The surprise at the Football Factory was the number of Iran fans who turned up for each of its three games. They don’t see many Iranian soccer fans usually, but they came in droves, packing the place.

Their favourites at the venue were the Mexican supporters in sombreros and green shirts.

“They’re fanatical, hugely knowledgeable and incredibly happy,” Chrissy said. The Mexican and German supporters jam-packed the place when Mexico beat Germany 1-0 in a shock win on June 17 . Everybody was very polite, if course. “They knew the etiquette,” Chrissy says. “The etiquette is important.”

Then on June 23, when Mexico beat South Korea and then Germany had that last-second win over Sweden, they all returned. When Germany scored that stunning winner, the Mexico fans descended on the German supporters, cheering wildly and they hoisting some of them in the air. People were in danger of getting their head banged on the ceiling so they all had to take it outside. Mexican supporters hoisting German supporters in the air at the corner of Bathurst and Richmond – that’s the World Cup in this city.

Chrissy’s partner, Pat, emerged from the kitchen, exhausted but energized by the madness. He has a beef with me, since he disagrees with my criticism of the TSN World Cup panel of experts. But he said, “I love ya, brother.”

He told me the biggest number of meals served in a single day during this World Cup is 322. (The little place only has 130 seats in total with 85 inside, 45 outside on the patios.) The highest number ever at the Football Factory is 331 meals in one day, during the World Cup four years ago. On Monday, during the Brazil-Mexico and Belgium-Japan games, there were 240 meals served. They were half-expecting to eclipse their 1994 record on Tuesday when England played Colombia after the Sweden-Switzerland match.

More than 100 beer glasses have been broken. None smashed in anger and nobody was injured. Just broken in the heave-ho and hurly-burly of a packed bar glued to the to-and-fro of international soccer.

Carly, who has been serving those beers and meals for some years at the Factory, was beyond exhaustion. She said she’d been exhausted since the first England game. “It was pouring rain outside and it was very intense in here, it was draining just to be here.”

Sean, who left the bar and then returned to work this World Cup, has a keen perspective. “I’ve met people from 90 countries through the bar, between the World Cup, the Euro tournament, the Copa America and the Women’s World Cup. The craziest game so far was probably the Belgium-Japan match. An incredible atmosphere, with people commiserating with each other after. One Belgian supporter sitting at the bar had three pints and insisted on paying the bill for the Japanese fans around him, which was literally 10 times the size of his bill. The goodwill there is among soccer fans in this city is something else to see and feel.”

That’s the best kind of bedlam and as sweet as any goal scored in Russia by anybody.

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