They came from all over Sydney. At 4.30 Monday morning hundreds of Spanish and Italians headed to the Star to watch the final of Euro 2012, joining the Asians who dominate the floor of the casino in the early hours of the morning.
The gamblers scattered around the few open tables, or pushing notes through the pokie machines, weren’t distracted by the excitement surrounding the big clash.
In the sports bar the rows of seats in front of the big screen were packed. It was standing room only. People stood around the edges and spilt out of the room. Ten minutes before kick-off no one was being let in, not that there weren’t plenty of other screens to watch throughout the casino.
The Italian supporters came expecting a win and were vocal in their confidence. Fans wore flags tied around their shoulder as capes and face paint on their cheeks.
Behind the bar a couple of bartenders had painted their faces the red and yellow of the Spanish. They had plenty of time to watch the soccer. There wasn’t a lot of drinking going on.
By the second half, down two-nil, the Italian fans didn’t have much to yell about. One passionate supporter was reduced to yelling, “Putana!” at his team, the opposition, the referee, or the television signal that occasionally dropped out.
A woman was in tears when it went to three-nil. Rather than stand and watch the slaughter she sat on the carpet. Her boyfriend joined her. They pashed as if they were in a hotel room, instead of sitting on the casino carpet watching their team getting flogged.
The Italians started to clear out before the final whistle, before Juan Mata slotted in the record-making fourth goal. The Spanish fans didn’t linger long to savour their victory. It was time to get to work or get back to bed. A few dozen watched the presentation and tried to start chants that didn’t catch on.
By 7.30 the place was near empty again, but for the few gamblers at the tables, still hoping for a win against the odds.