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Bay Area fans pack pubs for World Cup games

June 11, 2010 6:50:19 PM PDT
World Cup soccer is now underway in South Africa and is expected to be the most-watched TV event in history. But the game remains in the shadows of football, basketball and baseball in the U.S.

At noontime in downtown San Jose on Friday, every barstool and practically every table was filled at the Brittania Arms sports bar on West Santa Clara Street. The draw is 10 high-definition TV screens showing live ESPN coverage of the World Cup soccer matches from South Africa.

A huge crowd turned out for the game between Mexico and South Africa at 7 a.m. That crowd was replaced by a new pack of fans taking in the match between Uruguay and France.

There is a long-running debate as to why mainstream Americans do not embrace soccer, compared to the rest of the world, despite vibrant youth soccer leagues and collegiate soccer programs.

Soccer fans say it may have to do with the low-scoring nature of the game and American's obsession with highly paid, celebrity-status players in football, basketball and baseball.

"They'd rather play a professional sport -- football, baseball or basketball to get a game check, unless they're good enough to play in Europe, and a lot of athletes over here that play soccer aren't that good," World Cup fan Adam Valle said.

Perhaps that's changing. Dave Gold has coached scholastic and pro soccer for decades.

"The kids I coached 20 years ago now have their kids, and that generation is pure soccer people. So yeah, we're becoming mainstream. Soccer will eventually be one of the big sports here," he said.

One fan thinks Americans don't have the patience for low-scoring games. The match between Uruguay and France finished zero-zero.

"A game can go zero-zero through the whole game, and if there's no scoring, there's no interest," soccer fan Craig Foster said.

San Jose native and Earthquakes rookie Steven Beitashour thinks the game is more than scoring.

"It's not just about scoring the goals. It's about what they do between the lines and when you see a player making a 100-yard sprint, and he can't just rest and call a time-out, he's got to get back to the spot, so the true fans really appreciate how hard it is," he said.

How well the U.S. team does in World Cup could also ignite interest in soccer. The USA faces England on Saturday morning.


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