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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Not just Germany

Richard Perry/The New York Tims

Gary Witkowski went from his tire store to the
Polish bar across the street to teasingly celebrate
Ecuador's victory, where he was not welcomed

At Tire Store, a Well-Lubricated Rivalry
Published: June 10, 2006

Pepe's Tire Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, fixes flats for $6 apiece and is usually swarming with people trying to get patched up and back on the road.

Gary Witkowski went from his tire store to the Polish bar across the street to teasingly celebrate Ecuador's victory, where he was not welcomed.


But at Pepe's, the fan base was more evenly matched. It has to do with the boss. The shop is owned by Pepe Palaguachi, an Ecuadorean immigrant whose Ecuadorean friends and Spanish-speaking employees mix with the predominantly Polish clientele.

So yesterday's match drew a spirited bipartisan viewing, as Mr. Palaguachi rigged a television set on a high shelf between rows of tires and tuned into a Spanish-language station broadcasting the game. The front of the shop was decorated with the Polish and Ecuadorean flags.

"Usually, it's nothing but tires around here, but today the game is the important thing," said Mr. Palaguachi, 40, who came to the United States 19 years ago and saved enough money fixing flats to open his own shop.


"You don't understand," he said. "This is like the Super Bowl for Polish people."

Ecuador scored the game's only two goals. The second one, toward the end of the game, sealed the victory and cast a pall over the neighborhood.

"There's going to be a riot in Greenpoint tonight," Gary Witkowski said, as he grabbed the Polish and Ecuadorean flags from the front of the shop and marched over to the Pit Stop Bar to taunt the Polish customers. He was promptly kicked out.

Inside the bar, Andrzej Jania, a construction foreman, stared at the TV.

"This is the worst moment in Poland's history," he said. "You want to see what it looks like to see a Polish soccer fan watch his team lose?" Then he began gulping down his beer.

Next to him, Przemyslaw Kosiak, 27, a bricklayer from Greenpoint, showed his loyalty to his home team by pulling down his soiled T-shirt to reveal a tattoo of a Polish eagle. But when the game ended, Mr. Kosiak went to the tire shop and shook hands with Mr. Palaguachi.

Don't expect to get a pizza today, when Mexico plays Iran. Because the TV's will be fixed on the match.

It's a month long Super Bowl, but with national pride at stake

posted by Steve @ 11:58:00 AM

11:58:00 AM

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