01 | Jun | 18

Hugh Thomas

The Beautiful Game

The World Cup. Are you gripped? It doesn’t seem to matter if you hate watching men (or women) hoof a ball about for 90 minutes. Because if your national team’s involved, you just can’t get enough. Like with the World Cup, it isn’t a question of who-do-you-want-to-win. It’s the same with street food — and September 28/29 is the Cup Final.

This time round, the European Street Food Awards is the most diverse street food competition ever. There will be up to 13 different countries at the final – France, Germany, Sweden, Romania, the Netherlands, and the rest. Even – when they play their cards right – Italy. Many of whom will be making their first forays into the European Awards. Just like Iceland and Panama at the 2018 World Cup Finals.

So, debutants or otherwise, who to look out for? Who’s worth a trip to the bookmaker? A bit too early to say, as many countries are yet to vote on theirs. Though the Italian’s long (risotto) ball game looks strong, Wales’ home-grown roast pork could provide ideal pace going forward, and The Netherland’s stroopwafels have the sweetest defence in Europe. Come to think of it, the chemistry of the Scots’ crème brulee is hard to beat.

Then, of course, we have the host nation. Like last year, it’s the Germans who have home advantage during the final. This game’s played on their turf (their turf being an old malt factory in Shöneberg). But in such a multicultural and multi-influenced city, the Berliners could have as much chance winning as the Georgians or the British. Indeed, the current holders and defenders of the ESFAs – Birmingham’s Baked in Brick – are out of contention this year. Which opens up the competition to other, newer, talent. That’s the real kicker ­– no one’s a hot favourite.

Could the ESFAs be the closest thing to the World Cup of street food? Well yes, if the refs were sacked and the fans were allowed to choose the winner. Oh, and not only would you be able to sense the glory, you’d get a taste of it too.