ATLANTA — Local soccer fans that gathered with the masses to watch the World Cup opener for the U.S. on Saturday at Atlanta’s Brewhouse Cafe were all seemingly in accord: a 1-all tie against England is a pretty satisfying result.
A crowd which tilted in favor of the Americans, and estimated at approximately 1,200 fans, gathered to watch the setup of big-screen televisions underneath tents in this group play portion of the World Cup. However, a large number of the U.S. faithful are also hearty followers of the game overseas and have a fond appreciation for the English Premier League.
Having players aligned with national pride and loyalty on the line led to more than a slight conflict with regards to which team one should pull for.
“It’s like having two of your kids in a fight and having to pick one to win,” said Gainesville’s Mark Almand. He drove to Atlanta to be part of the World Cup excitement with his son, Reid, and his son’s friend Mirkan Van Hintum — both seniors at Gainesville High.
“A 1-1 draw is perfect,” Almand added. “Both teams came out of it with no one getting injured.”
The World Cup fans that follow the game closely, as those that battled the scorching heat and packed into the patio in Little Five Points, are a savvy bunch. They know both clubs now have a solid chance making it into the knockout round, barring an upset against Slovenia or Algeria. And maybe, just maybe, the U.S. and England could face off again in the finals.
“I’m happy with the outcome,” said Van Hintum, who was wearing a scarf representing his Dutch heritage around his neck. “But I do think England could have played a lot better.”
Anticipation for the World Cup, which comes around every four years, heats up leading to its beginning. It just so happens, that the U.S. and England met right off the bat, which is good and bad fans supporting both teams.
On one end of the spectrum, fans didn’t want to have to pick loyalties between these two fanbases that share an amiable relationship.
However, all three of these local fans that traveled to Atlanta together were in agreement that it was consolation that this match wasn’t for elimination. Each team earned a point for the draw, as opposed to three points for a victory.
“I’m a big fan of England, but I have to pull for the U.S. in this,” said Reid Almand leading up to kickoff.
Van Hintum was appreciative of the fact that soccer seems to be gaining some traction among American fans, which are traditionally loyal to football, baseball and basketball. In 2006, Van Hintum was in The Netherlands watching the games on television.
He said the number of fans who congregated in one place to watch the World Cup shows that soccer is starting to create its own identity among sports fans in our country. On Saturday, fans chanting “USA, USA” could be heard from all corners of Little Five Points and surrounding neighborhoods.
“I was really surprised at how good the atmosphere is for this game,” Van Hintum said. “It’s great to see this here.”
Fans didn’t want to miss this marquee early-round matchup between the U.S. and England: some fans who arrived as early as 7:30 a.m. were too late to get a place to sit for the match that started at 2:30 p.m. Still, the atmosphere was lively for the U.S., even inspiring chants to stoke the tailgating atmosphere, along with rounds of the National Anthem.
“This is the craziest it’s ever been for the World Cup,” Reid Almand said. “I think it has to do with kids starting to play soccer younger and younger now.
“Soccer is gaining fans here and getting bigger and bigger.”