European football is in full swing again after the summer hiatus and as with all post-World Cup seasons, there is a heightened interest in the game.
The National Football League jumps into action next week and that too promises plenty of intrigue.
There are plenty of sports bars in Cayman where you can watch the action and the latest one drawing interest is Overtime Restaurant and Bar in The Strand. One regular there is Nikolai Hill, who used to present a weekly sports radio show.
Sports nut Hill loves the comfort and convenience of the long hours and luxurious fittings in Overtime, where he watches virtually everything ESPN, Fox, HBO and SportsMax puts out.
Hill thinks the Premier League title will go back to City or to Chelsea even though he is a hard-core Arsenal fan. Early form suggests he is right. Chelsea have impressed partly because Diego Costa has settled quickly at Stamford Bridge. City too look like the reigning champs they are, comfortably beating Liverpool 3-1 on Monday, thanks to a brace by Stevan Jovetic and another by Sergio Arguero. Liverpool may have signed a host of players as well as the mercurial Mario Balotelli, but the general feeling is that Luis Suarez is virtually irreplaceable and they will struggle to even make a Champions League place this term.
“I don’t think Arsenal are going to win it,” he said. “They don’t have the talent. They are still two or three quality players away, especially in midfield.
“I don’t think Mikel Arteta as a holding midfielder is good enough to maintain that spot. But they can finish in the top three.”
Hill is a former Cayman Islands national footballer and was a striker with Scholars International where he earned the nickname “Bruiser” for uncompromising challenges.
Now solely playing flag football for the West Bay Hellcats, Phil O’Connor is Overtime’s general manager. An accomplished local competitor in rugby, basketball and flag, O’Connor appreciates what customers want.
“Overtime is a new sports bar that families can come to and watch all the major sports games, including NFL, European soccer and basketball,” he said.
“I think because we’ve just opened our doors in the low season, it’s encouraging that people are starting to know that we’re here. During the World Cup it was pretty awesome. We were full nearly every game.”
The NBA starts in October, so the skills of players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Paul George and Stephen Curry will always be accessible to Overtime customers.
A big Manchester United fan, O’Connor is hopeful that after the disastrous reign of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal can revive their fortunes. “I think we can get third or fourth place and get back in the Champions League,” O’Connor said. “I’ve got my hopes up.”
Overtime is open from 7 a.m. until 4 a.m. every weekend so there is little chance of missing action happening in faraway places and time zones.
Hill is looking forward to watching NFL games there on the huge screens, especially on the comfortable couches that early comers always go for first.
“This is the spot for Premiership football,” Hill said. “Every Saturday you can catch every game at some point, and every Sunday it’ll be cracking for NFL games.”
Hill reckons the Seattle Seahawks – last year’s Super Bowl champs – San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers will be amongst the top teams when the season starts on Sept. 4.
Of the novices to look out for, Hill is predicting Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant will make an impact and of the established names he thinks Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, could have a stellar season as well as Philip Rivers the Chargers’ QB.
Hill does not expect Peyton Manning to have such a fabulous campaign with the Denver Broncos as last term but still expects him to be outstanding again. Hill also has a soft spot for veteran QB, Tom Brady, hoping he can recapture the form of old for the New England Patriots.