U.S. success at the World Cup draws in new fans
Despite having Colombian ancestors, Camilo Arredondo never closely followed professional soccer.
That is until Wednesday, when Landon Donovan scored a decisive goal in stoppage time to send the United States into the next round of the World Cup.
“In Colombia, it’s huge,” said Arredondo, 21, of Quincy, “but for me it hadn’t been that big.”
Now, Arredondo is caught up in soccer excitement, which has swept across many areas as fans flock to sports bars and play pickup games in neighborhood parks.
“The U.S. advancing is tremendous. I was crying,” said Steve Reilly, vice president of Weymouth Youth Soccer. “Soccer is constantly struggling to establish a stronger fan base, so this gets us on the map a little bit.”
The association held a party at the beginning of the World Cup that drew more than 200 people, Reilly said, adding the excitement should attract more kids to the program.
“Getting out of the first round was huge,” he said. Americans “always like to be the best at something, and if we’re not, no one takes an interest in it.”
The World Cup should encourage more people to pursue soccer lessons, said Keith Caldwell, who runs Soccer Edge, a Braintree-based youth soccer camp.
“The excitement has definitely reached a general American audience other than the soccer crowd it normally does,” Caldwell said. “You see more people playing pickup on the street or in the parks.”
Ethnic neighborhoods have always seen high interest in the World Cup, but the fever has spread throughout the region, said Mary Tiseo, executive director of Boston-based South Africa Partners, which launched a World Cup initiative because the tournament is in South Africa.
“Everyone has been surprised by the level of interest in the World Cup this year,” Tiseo said. “We’re just starting to understand that this is something people care about.”
The tournament has also been a boon for sports bars, such as Stadium Sports Bar and Grill and The Four’s in Quincy Center, both of which opened early for United States games.
Business has increased 20 percent during U.S. matches, said Jim March, The Four’s general manager.
“It’s not like the Celtics, but when the U.S. plays, business has been good,” he said.
Patriot Ledger writer Brian Benson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.