Roughly 6,503 miles separates the northern stretch of Dorchester Avenue from Doha, the capital city in the tiny Persian Gulf nation state of Qatar. There’s an eight-hour time difference, to boot.
But over the last week-and-a-half, those barriers have been bridged inside the Banshee, the iconic Dot Ave barroom that has its roots in Ireland but is also Boston’s premier spot to watch sporting events of all stripes.
The Banshee is also the headquarters for AO Boston, the local chapter of the American Outlaws, the largest network for supporters of the USA men’s national soccer team, which has returned to World Cup play this year after an eight-year hiatus. The Outlaws have been based out of the Banshee since 2007, the year that Boston became the fourth chapter of the national group.
“Back then especially, trying to find a bar locally that was willing to put on a soccer match on a Monday night or a Tuesday afternoon was a challenge,” says Evan Cipriano, vice president of AO Boston. “The Banshee has just always had that presence – whether it was Premier League and Irish and Scottish matches. So, when we approached them, they were very supportive, and they’ve always taken care of us for both the men’s and women’s national team.”
Cipriano credits Banshee co-owner Ray Butler with being the energy behind the partnership, including generous sponsorships of the AO Boston chapter’s philanthropic efforts on behalf of Boston Scores, which supports spreading the sport of soccer in underprivileged communities.
Butler says the pairing happened “organically,” but notes that this year’s World Cup, with its unique timetable in the late fall, has been “interesting.”
“The good thing for us is that the games are on so early so the regular evening crowds don’t see the effects of it,” says Butler, who also lives in Dorchester. “We don’t open for the 5 a.m. games, obviously, but the AO group have been unbelievably loyal to us.”
With at least 400 active members and a growing cohort of more casual fans in tow, the AO Boston group has added two additional host bars this year – The Dubliner in Government Center and Parlor Sports in Inman Square – to accommodate the hard-core fans who cannot make it to Dot Ave. four hours before kick-off to guarantee a standing-room-only spot inside.
But the Banshee remains the go-to location for the Outlaws. On Black Friday, when the USA took on England in a high-stakes match that ended in a scoreless draw, there was a long line around the block to get in. On Tuesday morning, anxious fans were still trickling in for the USA’s win-or-go-home match against Iran. Nerves were high, but Ray Butler was bullish as the early crowd nursed their first pints of the day.
“USA will win today,” he declared. Indeed, USA beat Iran 1-0 and plays Netherlands on Saturday at 10 a.m. See you at the Banshee. – Bill Forry