Soccer's Growing Popularity

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

June 17, 2006

Soccer is a sport that's popular around the globe, but never seemed to attract as many fans here in the United States.

But on Saturday one local restaurant and bar, The Shebeen, was packed this afternoon with some very enthusiastic fans.

"People started showing up around 2 o'clock, 2:30. Three o'clock was when the pre-show started, and the crowd gets really pumped up for the USA game," said Brendan Saul, the manager's assistant at The Shebeen.

And there were a lot of different kinds of people there on Saturday.

"It's everybody," said David Wilson, one of the restaurant's managers. "It's very eclectic. There's business people, students, there's a lot of people from other nations. You name it, people are coming out."

People filled the outside deck to watch the game on a big screen TV, and inside at the bar, it was standing room only.

Walter Laake, visiting Charlottesville from the Washington, D.C. area, said his interest in soccer was fairly new, but that the game is unlike any other sport.

"The fact that there's no time outs, the endurance, the athleticism, is unbelievable," said Laake. "You have to realize these guys are going full for 45 minutes. Unless there's an injury, they don't stop it for anything and that's so different from American sports."

With stronger teams, the United States is slowly, but surely catching up on the world-wide soccer craze. And one fan said it might just be it's simplicity that makes it such a popular sport in other countries.

"You don't need much to play football," said John McGroarty, a soccer fan. "You can just use a tennis ball, two bricks for goal posts, and just kick a ball. It's as simple at that."

Goals in soccer tend to be few and far between, but when a team scores, fans go wild.

"It's great, everybody gets into it," said Saul.

And Wilson agrees. "Oh, it goes crazy. It's pandemonium. Everybody's jumping up and down and screaming. They can hear it for blocks away," he said.

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