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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
America's dedicated football fans
Soccer fans
"Sam's Army" sent scouts to locate bars

It can be lonely being a soccer fan in the US, soccer, of course, being the American name for what the rest world calls football.

But while Sam's Army - as US national team supporters call themselves - may be small in number, they more than make up for it in dedication.

The US match against South Korea was broadcast live at two-thirty in the morning on the East Coast.

But hours before the match began, soccer supporters began queuing in front of a handful of bars in the Washington area that stayed open all night to show the match live.

World Cup withdrawal

Some bars quickly filled to capacity, and members of Sam's Army mobilised.

Soccer fans queue to watch match in a bar
Some bars quickly filled to capacity
Sam's Army - as in Uncle Sam - use e-mail lists to let everyone know where they can watch matches, and early Sunday morning, they sent out scouting parties to locate bars that still had room.

Patrick Murphy and friend George Kent felt fortunate to find room at the Clarendon Grill in northern Virginia after being turned away at a nearby bar because it was already full.

They are both Foreign Service officers, and Mr Kent had just returned from Thailand where he watched every match except one.

It was easy to follow the World Cup there - all of the games are shown on public television.

In the US, one has to subscribe to cable or satellite television or watch the matches in Spanish to see all of the games.

When Mr Kent returned to the US, he "was suffering from World Cup withdrawal," he says.

But staying up all night to cheer on the US national team is not something new for Mr Kent.

When the US hosted the World Cup in 1994, he was stationed in China. He had to get up at three in morning to watch the matches.

Growing up with soccer

The two friends count themselves as the first generation of Americans to actually grow up with the sport.


Last time, I had to wake my wife to celebrate the goals

Mike Terry
"Kicking the ball around in the backyard 1970s, that's how we got started," Mr Kent said. They weren't even aware of the World Cup back then.

The game has come a long way in the US since then.

"Frankly, I was a little embarrassed to play soccer as a kid. It meant you weren't tough enough to play American football," Mr Murphy said.

But now the game is much more mainstream, and they see the level of play improving.

"What we've show in these first two games is that we're actually starting to play world-class soccer," Mr Kent said.

Fans celebrate

The taps were shut off at the Clarendon Grill, but to keep their energy level up, fans guzzled Red Bull energy drink.

Clint Mathis
Mathis' goal brought the crowd to its feet
But the crowd seemed to have little trouble staying awake with the fast-paced game between the US and South Korea, and Clint Mathis brought the crowd to its feet with a goal in the 24th minute.

Mike Terry came out to the Clarendon Grill to share the match excitement with fellow fans. "Last time, I had to wake my wife to celebrate the goals," said Mike Terry.

But the tie with South Korea couldn't match the excitement for Sam's Army as the win against Portugal.

Paul Abugattas was with some 400 other fans packed into another Washington-area bar for that memorable victory. After the win, "we poured out onto the street and blocked traffic," he said.


arrow
 MEN'S FINAL PREVIEW
Ronaldo won the World Cup and the Golden Boot
 LINEKER'S VERDICT
Gary Lineker

See also:

10 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
31 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 May 02 | Business
30 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 Feb 01 | Americas
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