Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup Fever

World Cup viewing party at Crew Stadium for the USA-Italy match (Mark Pfeiffer/June 17, 2006)

While I'm far from the most knowledgeable person or ardent fan when it comes to soccer, I really enjoy the World Cup. In 2002, in what must have been fits of insanity, I went to most of the viewing parties at Crew Stadium, which sometimes meant getting up at 4:00 a.m. to go watch matches on TV. Although this tournament's games are on at friendlier times, I've seen fewer of them because they're on during the meat of the work day.

I did make it to the Columbus Crew's viewing party for the USA-Italy match, mostly because I had to be at the stadium that night to help spot for the Ohio North-South All-Star Football Classic. So we're clear, this was football of the American kind. I arrived early so I could take in the game.

Other than being at the matches in person, there's no better way to watch the World Cup. The people who show up at these free parties are passionate and bring the feel of a live sporting event. I'd guess there were a thousand or so packed into the tent beside the stadium, most of whom were cheering for the United States. Many were decked out in the appropriate gear, be it scarves, hats, or jerseys, and some took the body paint route. Yeah, it kind of strange to have that commitment when you're not even at the game, but it adds to the atmosphere.

View from the stands (Mark Pfeiffer/June 17, 2006)

I watched the second half from the bleachers in the stadium. More people were out there than are seen in the photograph, but most were sitting on the same level as me or higher to be in the shade.

Of course, this is prelude to the USA-Ghana match, which begins in a little more than an hour. A win, coupled with an Italy defeat of the Czech Republic, means the US advances to the next round. Will it happen? I'm feeling upbeat about their chances, but I'm not going to be putting my money where my mouth is on this one. After all, the national team has yet to have one of their players score a goal.

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