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Sharing the World Cup experience with strangers

POSTED June 29, 2010 11:28 p.m.

Inside a downtown Modesto bar, while the customers were indulging in the FIFA World Cup, there was a problem. A major one.

See, I was sitting at the bar along with four other male strangers and we were in a trance. We couldn't let go of the image that was in front of us, of the U.S. Men's Soccer team playing its first game of the knockout round against Ghana. The problem was that the people upstairs were receiving the feed two seconds ahead of us. It ruined the point of being here.

But then, it was fixed.

And we were all happy again. Well, not for too long.

I decided to go to one of my favorite sports bars in Modesto to get an idea of what it's like to share a World Cup experience with complete strangers. It was interesting to see the impact American soccer has on millions of people across the country, to the point where they would fuss about a two-second delay on the TV screen.

Before the U.S. got wiped out by Ghana in extra time in Saturday's match in South Africa, people were getting serious about soccer. It was due to a number of things. I say technology has played a huge role in the rising popularity of American soccer, as anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account will undoubtedly be informed about the importance of a game that many people aren't very familiar with. I'd also say what the Americans did last summer helped greatly, too, after placing second at the 2009 Confederations Cup behind Brazil.

Let's hope the interest grows by the next World Cup, in 2014.

Back at the bar, there was some excitement. I expected a bigger crowd. But instead, I found a number of open seats and I took one of them. I expected to be pushed into a corner somewhere, fighting for a view. But instead, I had all the room I wanted to raise my hands in celebration, if I needed to.

I guess it depends where you were. According to various news broadcasts, there were people in very populated cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and so on filling up their respective sports bars. And here I was, feeling like it was another typical Saturday morning inside a somewhat busy sports bar.

But I didn't mind.

My fellow soccer fans were all into it. We shared information that we got through our mobile phones, and some of us knew at least a handful of the players' names. And then we burst into cheers when Landon Donovan connected on his penalty kick to eventually force overtime. High-five's commenced, as everyone without a six-foot radius got one.

But the inevitable came. The Americans were eliminated, and hearts across the country were shattered.

One of the customers swung the door open and left in disgust.

I was certain he'd be back, though it might take about four years.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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