Montreal soccer fans are in for a treat with Euro, Copa América on at the same time

“This is a great time to be a soccer fan in Canada and definitely in Montreal,” says Paul Desbaillets of the Burgundy Lion pub.

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To say that Paul Desbaillets is excited about Euro 2024 simply does not do justice to his state of mind at the moment. The co-owner of St-Henri pub Burgundy Lion is downright ecstatic about the arrival of the hugely popular European soccer tournament and more generally an unprecedented summer for the beautiful game.

The Euro kicks off Friday at 3 p.m. local time with host nation Germany facing off against Scotland, and Copa América, the South American soccer tournament, is also coming very soon, opening June 20. This year, Copa América is welcoming six teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, including Canada for the first time. To add to the buzz, the event is taking place in the U.S.

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If that wasn’t enough, there will also be top-notch international soccer at the Olympics in Paris, beginning July 26.

“Some days we’ll be showing two games, not just from the Euro but from Copa,” Desbaillets said. “So you could have a day where you come in for an England game and then you finish it up with a Team Canada game at Copa. It’s never heard of before. These are games that mean something. It’s an extraordinary June-July of football, and then it leads us into (late July) when the Olympics start up. So for football fans, this is a big one. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The Euro and Copa both end on July 14, so you’ll have the highly unusual experience of being able to watch the Euro final at 3 p.m. and then the Copa América final at 8 p.m.

The timing couldn’t be better for Canadian soccer fans. The Canadian men’s national team made it into the 2022 World Cup, the first time it had been in that tournament since 1986, and it will be back for the 2026 World Cup since Canada is one of the host nations, along with the U.S. and Mexico.

But for the Euro and Copa América, there are also loads of Montrealers who will be cheering on the teams that represent their country of origin or their ethnic roots. So, many will be cheering for Canada at the Copa tourney in addition to other teams in both events.

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“They’ll be extra excited,” Desbaillets said. “This is a great time to be a soccer fan in Canada and definitely in Montreal.”

The Burgundy Lion and its sister pub/resto Bishop & Bagg on St-Viateur St. in Mile End are known as places to watch England matches. Sheryl Moore, manager of Kelly’s Orchard Pub & Grill on Donegani Ave. in Pointe-Claire, said they tend to attract England fans as well.

Places like Café Club Social on St-Viateur, Bruno Sport Bar on Beaubien St. and Café Conca d’Oro on Dante St. are go-to places for fans of Italy, but they get big crowds for all the games. Conca d’Oro is also a hub for supporters of Argentina and Uruguay.

“It’s going to be crazy, man,” Conca d’Oro owner Gino Dini said.

France goes into the Euro as one of the favourites, and ground zero for the very large French contingent is unquestionably L’Barouf on St-Denis St. in the Plateau. For Spain, the ultimate spot is the Spanish Social Club on St-Laurent Blvd.

Café Felice on Parc Ave. just above St-Viateur will be hosting a barbecue Saturday to tee up the game that afternoon between Italy and Albania.

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Café Felice co-owner Vincenzo Spinale in his place on Park Ave. in Montreal on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.
Café Felice owner Vincenzo Spinale is seen Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

“Italy’s the biggest games because we’re Italian, but what’s nice about Felice, because we’re in the Mile End, you have a diverse community,” said owner Vincenzo Spinale. “First you have soccer fans who watch every game, so I have guys who’ll be there every day for a month. Then you have soccer fans who watch the big teams, no matter who they are, like Italy, France, Germany, Portugal. Then you have casual fans. So Saturday probably all my neighbours will come down with their kids.”

If you’re a fan of Scotland, your choices of venues to see your team are limited. John Campbell, who was born in Glasgow, will be forced to watch the opening Scotland game Friday at the apartment of a friend who is — God forbid — an England fan. He’ll watch the second game at Bruno, and for the third game he thinks he’ll hook up with his friends from the Celtic Supporters Club, a group that meets regularly at Le Manoir in lower N.D.G. to watch Glasgow Celtic games.

“We’re a tiny ethnic minority in the city at this point,” Campbell grumbled. “We used to be a pretty hefty minority. There’s no Scottish bars per se. Everything is an Irish pub.”

Noel Butler, the longtime TSN 690 soccer commentator, is originally from London and knows more about being a Team England fan than most. England’s current squad is much-touted, but he realizes that teasing fans and then destroying their hopes and dreams is something England has come to specialize in.

“England certainly has a squad to go one step further and to win Euro 2024, but I don’t think we need to talk about the history of the English football team in international tournaments,” Butler said. “Tournament football is a completely different animal compared to domestic cups or the wonderful Champions League. But whatever it is with England and tournaments, they don’t seem to go together.”

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