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Without soccer, we cannot live

Portlanders enamored of Europe's game know where to share the love

West Ham United striker Jermain Defoe taps in a goal in the 86th minute to tie English Premier League monolith Manchester United. Reserved cheers reverberate through the Horse Brass Pub on Southeast Belmont Avenue, peppered with expletives from Manchester fans accustomed to victory.

The restrained excitement dissipates, and patrons return to their English breakfasts and a more civil brand of spectating.

Across the river at Piazza Italia in the Pearl District, Brazilian wing Serginho chalks up an early goal for AC Milan, a leader in Italy's Serie A soccer league. The windows shake with Italian exclamations of joy. Other watchers nearly knock over their espressos in uncontrollable frustration. The passion continues until the first half is over.

It's just another weekend for soccer fans in Portland.

The Horse Brass shows British soccer matches on Saturdays beginning at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 8 a.m. The pub has become a Mecca for British soccer hooligans and American wannabes since it started showing the matches 10 years ago.

'This wasn't so much our idea as other people's,' says Don Younger, Horse Brass owner. 'The fans came to us.'

Piazza Italia shows Italian Serie A matches Sundays and most Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. The restaurant has been drawing Italian expats and other soccer lunatics since it opened two years ago.

'Before I rented this space, the first thing I had to do was see if it got a good satellite signal for the games,' says Gino Schettini, Piazza Italia's co-owner. 'Without soccer, we cannot live.'

Despite minimal advertising, the number of people arriving to watch soccer at these establishments has increased over the years through word of mouth. Many fans are British or Italian citizens who live here. Some are Portland natives addicted to the game.

'Every year a few more come and become regulars,' says Horse Brass bartender Arthur Hague, who came to Portland from Yorkshire, England, in 1973.

Matt Suran and Schuyler Dunn, both 27, are native Portlanders and Horse Brass regulars who have fallen in love with the game.

'We've turned into frothing lunatics,' Dunn says. 'And the British fans give you a good tutorial on how to yell at the players.'

At Piazza Italia, some fans come for the atmosphere more than for the sport itself.

'Two years ago, we spent almost two months in Italy, and this is as close to the real thing as you can get,' says longtime Oregonian Dan Feller, who came to watch the game and dine with his family.

Although both establishments try to celebrate their respective cultures without resorting to nationalism, owners and employees clearly have strong opinions on the customs associated with their homeland's style of play.

'In England, they have talent, too, but we are more artistic when we play,' says Eric Schettini, Gino's son.

'The Italian crowds show that Mediterranean temperament,' Hague says. 'We have a tendency to just throw things on the pitch and boo.'