North End welcoming total sports overload - Metro US

North End welcoming total sports overload

The North End might be ground zero for Boston’s soccer fans. But when the World Cup begins today it will have to share the spotlight with the neighborhood’s Celtic pride.

“When the Celtics and Lakers punched their tickets for the Finals, the World Cup became far less important,” soccer fan Chris Burke, 40, said while watching Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Caffe Paradiso.

“People say the World Cup only comes every four years. My answer to that is in 2008 the Celtics played the Lakers in the Finals for the first time in 21 years; that’s half my lifetime.

“So for it to happen two years later is special.”

Italian soccer jerseys share storefront windows with “Beat L.A.” tees. Even traditional soccer bars get their share of C’s fans.

“It will make life a lot tougher but you gotta take the good with the bad,” said Michael Spencer, who co-owns Caffe Dello Sport, the unofficial headquarters for local Italian soccer fans.

Spencer planned to work until around 1:30 a.m. after Thursday night’s Celtics game and return to work at 6:30 a.m. for the open of World Cup play on Friday.

When Italy won the 2006 World Cup, Spencer closed two hours early after “running out of everything.”

“We’ll be mobbed down here,” Benny Fuccillo said while watching the C’s at Martini’s Smoke Shop, where T-shirt sales have increased 10 percent. “I root for Italy because I’m Italian but I know nothing about soccer.”

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