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Brotherly rivalry over World Cup at Richmond barbershop

Canada lost its first game to Belgium 1-0 but it wasn't without putting up a good fight.
Saeed Almero (front, left) is cheering on Argentina, while his brother (front, right) wants Brazil to win at this year’s World Cup. It has set the brothers, co-owners of Terra Nova Barber, up for some friendly rivalry. Staff members (back, left to right) Noor Sabri, Wisam Alasoo and Bassam Odeesho are supporting other countries.

One brother is for Argentina.

The other is all out for Brazil.

A brotherly rivalry is playing out at a Richmond barbershop as the World Cup of soccer launched into action this week.

So, for Saeed Almero, the stunning 2-1 loss for Argentina, the team he cheers on regularly, to Saudia Arabia on Tuesday was “shocking.”

“I believe in Argentina, but how they played this first (game), not sure, but I never give up,” he told the Richmond News.

His brother, Yousif, however, was gloating over Argentina’s loss, being a Brazil superfan.

“I was ribbing him all day,” Yousif said.

Soccer — or football as the rest of the world calls it — is a big part of the life of the two brothers, who co-own Terra Nova Barbers.

The shop is currently decorated with flags of all the countries participating in the World Cup and three screens  mounted on the walls have wall-to-wall coverage of the biggest sporting event on the planet.

The barbershop, which the brothers opened in 2010 in west Richmond, has a “sports bar” vibe with a 2019 Toronto Raptors world championship flag draped on the wall and basketball and soccer jerseys plastered around the business.

If Argentina wins the World Cup, Saeed plans to have a huge party with his staff of seven and their customers.

Yousif scoffs at the notion of Argentina winning, saying Vegas odds are favouring Brazil. And if Argentina loses, Yousif plans a big party, he told the News, perhaps with his tongue-in-cheek.

Yousif has been a Brazil fan since they won the World Cup in 2002 when he was just nine years old.

Saeed, however, is following in his father’s footsteps favouring Argentina. His inspiration is Diego Maradona, considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time. As for Argentina’s loss to Saudia Arabia in the first few days of the World Cup, Saeed chalks this up to the team not playing the midfield.

As for Canada’s team, the brothers are cautiously optimistic, although realistic, about their chances at success.

Canada hasn’t been at the World Cup in 36 years, and their first game was Wednesday against top-tier team Belgium.

“We wish them the best, but...” Saeed trailed off wistfully.

In the end, Belgium beat Canada 1-0 but it wasn’t without a fight.

For the brothers, the soccer team of their home country, Iraq, is in about the same league as Canada, having made the cut twice in World Cup history.

This year, Canada’s third time, however, won’t see the Iraqi team on the pitch.

Controversy over World Cup

The World Cup has been mired in controversy over the construction of the facilities, homophobic attitudes — the governing body FIFA not letting players wear pride armbands — and the banning of alcohol in the stands.

Saeed calls the alcohol rule “stupid,” but, he added, the government of Qatar can do what it wants in its country.

But as a World Cup superfan, he just wants to enjoy the game.

The staff have all chosen countries to support — the brothers chose Argentina and Brazil, obviously, while others are rooting for England, Portugal, Spain, Germany and France. Customers have also gotten in on the action, picking a country to root for.

More soccer focus needed in Canada

The brothers arrived in Canada in their late teens and were surprised that soccer wasn’t as popular here as it is across the globe.

In fact, soccer is the number one sport in many countries around the world.

“Every country you go to in the world, it’s soccer,” Yousif said.

He said he wishes more Canadians would appreciate the sport of soccer more. It would help if parents were more enthusiastic, Yousif added, but it often trails behind hockey, basketball and baseball.

It’s the cheapest game to play — kids just need cleats and a ball and they’re good to go, he added.

But enthusiasm  for the beautiful game may change, at least for the next couple of weeks, with Canada proving itself a contender on the world stage.

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