For the embassy, Friday’s match meant a house divided. With two of the countries of the United Kingdom facing each other in one of the world’s biggest tournaments, the embassy looked to bridge the gap between the countries through sports while also using the opportunity to engage local residents.
“That’s an important part of British soft power and the idea that there’s a lot of cultural qualities that attract the UK to the eyes of Americans,” said Josh Stanton, acting head of strategic communications and public diplomacy for the embassy.
Scattered around the main tent and various cabanas throughout the garden, attendees were able to experience the emotional roller coaster of Friday’s match with one another and establish friendships while sharing a drink.
Some came because they were cheering for either England or Scotland, while others joined just because they were following the tournament closely.
Dressed in a Scottish jersey and sporting a traditional Scottish kilt, James Payne said he gravitates toward the soccer scene because of his Scottish-Italian heritage but also the community built among those who love the game.
“It’s a communal aspect, and we don’t have that anymore,” Payne said.
Payne made his way across the tent and began speaking to blue-bearded Scottish superfan Dan Searing. The pair were not friends before the match, but through their shared loved of soccer they were able to enjoy it together as if they were lifelong buddies.
Evan Dotas moved to the area months before the city was shut down last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and he used Friday’s event as an opportunity to get to know his community. He said he found out about the watch party Friday morning and thought it was something interesting to do that could happen only in D.C.
“It’s an atmosphere you don’t really get anywhere else,” Dotas said.
Barry Creedon moved to the United States in 2002, and the Ireland native found his community through soccer. He and his friends came to the watch party because they’re “just fans of football.”
“Booze, beer and these lads” were what Creedon said brought him to Wunder Garten.
The beer garden, located on what was once a parking lot, has helped host events for various international embassies since it opened in 2015, owner Biva Ranjeet said.
During the pandemic, hosting outdoor events became a way to get regulars out of their houses and back on the town.
“We were crossing our fingers,” Ranjeet said.
On Friday, when Scotland played heavily favored England to a 0-0 draw, the result catered to the inclusive spirit of the event.
“In one way, it is an indication of how much sport really brings people together,” Stanton said. “We live in a time where obviously politics and polarization really are front and center in life. So sitting down together and watching sports in a tournament like this really speaks to community building.”