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Queens Chronicle

World Cup fever hits Queens

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Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:00 am

In a quest to find out what exactly it is about soccer that gets millions of people amped to watch the World Cup every four years, I headed to Long Island City’s own beer garden, Studio Square, to hear what fans had to say.

“It’s about the passion,” said Herman Canosa of Forest Hills. “It’s the only sport where no one is seated. The people in the stadiums are all on their feet and just going bananas,” he added.

As opposed to sports like baseball and American football, in soccer, there is no downtime. The “continuous game play and constant action” are what keep the energy and intensity high among fans, according to Ravi Kattippa of Astoria who was rooting for the U.S., Ghana and C™te d’Ivoire.

The excitement is certainly what drew Nicole Metaxas and her large entourage of friends visiting from Germany, all decked out in black, yellow and red gear. Metaxas, who moved to Astoria from Germany in 1997, said the cup is like one “big party that we can all celebrate,” she said. “With beer!” chimed in one of her friends, accompanied by a loud honk from his yellow plastic horn.

But aside from the exhilaration that the event inspires in fans, the diversity of nationalities that it brings together allows everyone to participate.

Porcelana Stojanovic of Bayside, who is half-Serbian and half-Colombian and is rooting for both teams, said that “all the diversity,” is what makes soccer such a fun sport to watch. “To see a country like North Korea … all the political dynamics get put aside and all the cultures come together to play the sport,” making matches interesting, she said.

Because of its vastly diverse community, beer garden visitors agreed that New York is the best place to watch the cup.

Graham Schmidt, a friend of Kattippa’s, came all the way from San Francisco just to watch the games here.

“The best game I saw was watching Trinidad and Sweden in a Trinidadian restaurant in Brooklyn,” he said. “Being with those people who were from the country … celebrating their win … was like the greatest thing,” he said.

While soccer may be taken more seriously in Europe, Asia or South America, where it’s called football, there is no doubt that America is starting to catch the fever.

“To see all the American fans cheering together … was a surreal experience for me,” said Kattippa, who had been at the beer garden when the Americans scored a goal against England last Friday.

According to Canosa, a soccer fanatic whose father took him to see soccer matches regularly at the stadiums in his home country of Argentina as a child, soccer has increased in popularity tremendously in the past 20 years in the U.S.

Canosa believes that the rise in popularity may be attributed to the increasing diversity of America.

“Look at [Carlos] Bocanegra,” he said, citing the star Mexican-American captain of the U.S. team. “No one is 100 percent anything anymore.”

However, according to Canosa, this is also the first time in history that America has a good core of veteran players and upcoming stars, which also might contribute to the sport’s popularity. “If they beat Slovenia then they have a chance,” he said.

As for winning predictions, most have their bets on Brazil, Spain, Germany or Argentina, including Canosa who plans to take off from work to watch all of Argentine La Albiceleste’s matches at his mother’s house “because we’re very superstitious,” he said.

Despite talk of which teams will make it to the finals, Canosa said that “it’s about more than the game … It’s about the random conversations you have with people,” he said. Soccer is “the only sport where you have every ethnic group represented … you can’t find that anywhere else.” To find out where you can watch the World Cup in your neighborhood visit queenschronicle.com.

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