Trio watched World Cup with 28 nations across London to celebrate diversity

The three said they wanted to celebrate London’s ‘diversity and vibrancy’.
The three said they wanted to celebrate London’s ‘diversity and vibrancy’.

Three friends set out to watch a World Cup game with fans of every country at the tournament to celebrate diversity in London and football’s ability to bring people together.

Michael Pugh, 29, Lucas Farthing, 30, and Alex, 29, who did not wish to share his surname, created Away At Home, which saw the trio watch matches with people from around the globe.

With this year’s tournament in Qatar marred by controversy, the friends opted to watch 28 of the 31 non-English teams across 19 days and 27 locations – visiting bars, restaurants and community centres across the capital to celebrate its diversity.

The friends, pictured here for a Poland game, said the challenge celebrated London’s diversity (Away At Home/PA)

Despite the trio being “conflicted” about the tournament being held in Qatar, Mr Pugh told the PA news agency the friends wanted to “reclaim the World Cup for what we all enjoy, which is bringing people together and different communities together”.

He said: “We’re all from London and we feel as though there’s no other city in the world really where you can do this challenge.

“So we wanted to kind of both reclaim that spirit of bringing people together and kind of challenge what was going on with Fifa and Qatar and also celebrate London and its diversity and vibrancy, so that was kind of our approach.”

The group began its search by using friends and social media to try and find foreign fans and contact different communities.

From a long list of multicultural bars and restaurants, the friends watched games at Sidi Bou, a Tunisian restaurant in Ealing; the Dutch bar De Hems in Soho, where a group of Netherlands fans bought a round of 40 pints for the whole bar; and the Korea Arts and Cultural Centre in New Malden.

The friends watched with communities from 28 countries (Away At Home/PA)

“We put a call out there and were really grateful for people inviting us to their clubs or their venues, inviting us to their homes to watch the games with them,” Mr Pugh said.

“For those real challenging ones, where that wasn’t forthcoming, we did a bit of research and perhaps found a restaurant or café from that community and rocked up and we felt very welcome when we got there.

“It felt really natural to be honest. People in London are very welcoming and there wasn’t any difference.

“I think they were pleasantly surprised to have someone that was curious enough to turn up and want to share food, share drinks and share stories with them.”

The trio fell just short of completing the full set of teams, missing out on Switzerland, Uruguay and Spain due to “an unfortunate mix of scheduling, work commitments and bad luck”.

The friends said they had incredible experiences watching with various fan groups, with Mr Pugh highlighting Morocco and Argentina as two of his favourite moments of the project.

The group watched 28 teams across 19 days (Away At Home/PA)

“The two which really stood out were Morocco and Argentina,” he said.

“Obviously it was the first Arab World Cup; we recognised that importance and spent a lot of time on Edgware Road watching Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“The Moroccan experience really stood out. There’s a fantastic restaurant there – Dar Marrakesh on Edgware Road – which was full of energy.

“We met a half-Senegalese and half-Argentine couple when we were watching Senegal. Then a few days later they invited us to watch Argentina with them which was full of music.

“It was almost like a religious experience. It was quite powerful. Of course it helps when they were successful on the pitch as well.”

Now Argentina captain Lionel Messi has lifted the trophy to wrap up the 2022 tournament, Mr Pugh and his friends have their sights set on completing a similar challenge in the future.

He added: “Experiencing some of these games, particularly with the West African and South American contingencies, we really want to do something like this again.

“We’ll maybe share a blueprint for other people if they want to take up the challenge as well.”