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World Cup 2014: Sitkans wake up to soccer

World Cup action in 2010 did not seem to grip Alaskans the way the 2014 contest has. (Flickr photo/Damien Sachs-Dromsen)

World Cup action in 2010 did not seem to grip Alaskans the way the 2014 contest has. (Flickr photo/Damien Sachs-Dromsen)

Every four years most of the world grinds to a halt to watch the World Cup of Men’s Football — and the game finally may have caught on in Sitka.

Local watering holes opened for breakfast last Thursday (6-26-14), and tuned their flat-panel televisions to soccer, as the US met Germany for a pivotal game that would send the winner into the final stage of the tournament.

KCAW’s Rich McClear has lived in Europe for most of the last 20 years. But this past Thursday, he was in his hometown watching Sitkans react to their newest favorite sport.

The US men will meet Belgium in their first Group of 16 game, noon Alaska time, on Tuesday July 1, 2014.

The first problem is I don’t have a television, which makes watching the World Cup matches a challenge. I can watch them on my iPhone in Spanish, there is an app for that, but Football should be watched in a cheering group, not on a small screen. I opted for the Westmark, which was open for both breakfast and football, and I found myself at a convivial table — even though there was a bona fide German sitting there.

“Martina Kurzer, I am German and I am American. This is the best game EVER. I cannot lose. (Laughs) It’s true.”

This was not the way I am used to watching Football in Serbia, where I lived for several years. Looking around I realized I was the only man at the table. In Serbia, Football was a man’s sport. One female sport’s journalist I worked with told me she was often the only woman in the stands. I asked Martina if she had been a football fan in Germany.

“Of course, I’m German, it’s like being a baseball fan here.”

I told here that in Serbia, she would stand out as a female football fan.

“Oh, that’s interesting, I tell you a story. My Grandmother did not answer a telephone when there was football, or soccer on TV. So it goes back many generations.”

The US team would advance in the tournament if it tied or won. At the end of the first half the score was tied. However in the second half Germany scored. The crowd at the Westmark was NOT like a crowd in Serbia. There were no loud demonstrations of frustration or anger, but rather calm analysis, and even appreciation of the German goal.

(All Women’s voices.) Long Long Drive. it was a good kick. Can you believe that? It Went right through, wow.

Near the end of the game, it looked briefly like the US team would tie and assure itself a berth in the playoffs but…

Oh, no no no!

Close but no goal. In the end the US lost but still advanced to the next stage because Portugal beat Ghana by one goal in a game that ended seconds after the US-Germany match. Technically the US and Portugal were tied in their groups but the US advanced because Portugal had more goals scored against it than had the United States. Soccer playoffs are more confusing that US Baseball’s Wild Card.

Martina left the venue happy.

I think it’s great, both teams advance so it’s perfect.

In the next stage of the Cup, however, there are no second chances. The Round of 16 is a single-elimination format. Here’s hoping the US men — and our new love of international football — survive.

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