Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

June 26, 2014

How to love soccer

ASHLAND — While the rest of the world lives and dies for their national teams during the World Cup, many Americans only push to profess how little they care for the sport.

For instance, there is a joke going around of a man who took a picture of himself with his nose pressed against a wall with the tagline, “Still more fun than watching soccer.”

Though there may be more in this country, and in Ashland, who agree with this man than with the riotous fans of European teams, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few faithful fans come out to cheer on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s last few matchups.

Personally, this is the most excited I have been for the USMNT since I caught soccer fever in Spain four years ago.

My boss noticed how I would splitscreen my computer every day having live World Cup games on one side, stories I was writing on the other.

Thursday he decided if I was going to be watching U.S. vs. Germany anyway, I might as well make the best of it and gather Ashland fan reaction. Needless to say, I did not hesitate to oblige.

Predictably, there weren’t many fans to be found, but sometimes that is a good thing. In a pool of only a few, when you do  happen to run into a fan they are generally extra dedicated to the sport and much more generous than your average man on the street.

At Fat Patty’s, I managed to find a few that I mentioned in my game story: Chris Pullem, Bryan Barber and Danny Craig.

It was easy to tell Pullem was loyal to the USMNT just by looking at him: American flag bandana around his forehead, red, white and blue tie and he even brought a flag to hang behind the bar.

Pullem and I became soccer fans under similar circumstances: by immersion. As I have stated in previous columns, I caught World Cup fever during my time in Spain in 2010 when the Spanish team became the celebrated world champs.

Pullem said he wasn’t a fan until he moved to London and witnessed the magic of three world-class British players firsthand.

Though I did not get to see the world champion team while I was in Spain (the World Cup was being played in South Africa), the electricity of Espana futbol pride still charges my enthusiasm for the sport four years later. It was a contagion of the best kind.

However, Pullem, was lucky enough go to Panama and watch the USMNT qualify for this year’s World Cup.

He said the experience was unforgettable, but I’m still trying to figure out if he said that because he can claim to have traveled to Central America for his country’s team or because he and other American fans were escorted out by military guards when the United States pushed Panama’s national team out of the tournament.

The USMNT is constantly defying expectations during this year’s games. I can’t wait to return to Fat Patty’s at 4 p.m. Tuesday to cheer the team on in the Round of 16 against Belgium.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653. For Twitter updates, follow @lanabellamy_DI.

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