Boise's World Cup Obsession 

U.S. fans swarm to 2014 World Cup

The deafening chants of "USA! USA! USA!" rang through Ha'Penny Bridge Irish Pub. Passersby at the Broad Street pub couldn't help but get caught up in the pounding of tables and ringing of a cowbell.

The United States Men's National Team--nicknamed "The Yanks"--were less than a minute from advancing past the "group of death" in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, up 2-1 against Portugal at the Manaus stadium in Brazil, July 22.

And then: Nothing.

Thunderous cheers from a rowdy crowd of Yanks supporters were silenced in a heartbeat as Portugal's Silvestre Valera scored the tying goal with fewer than 15 seconds remaining.

The tie-game broke some hearts, but at least it positioned the U.S. to progress to the Round of 16 after facing off against Germany on July 26--which it did, despite a 1-0 loss to the Mannschaft.

As this week's edition of Boise Weekly was going to press, the U.S. team was poised to go against Belgium in what could be the end of the country's World Cup dreams, but such heartbreaking moments are plentiful in the sport Americans call soccer but that the majority of the globe refers to as futbol. Last-second goals, players flopping in an attempt to gain a penalty kick, a red card removing a country's lone hope from the pitch, all are norms in a sport the U.S. has only recently committed itself to.

While futbol gains widespread coverage and an almost cult-like following across the globe all year, every year, U.S. fans really only join the rest of the world every four years, for the World Cup.

"Honestly, I just enjoy being able to join in the hype and support my nation," said local fan Doug Zimmer, wearing an American flag as a cape and a hat with "USA" embroidered in red, white and blue.

Zimmer is one of many Boiseans who plunge themselves into futbol one summer every four years, only to walk away at the conclusion of the World Cup.

Fans like Zimmer aren't entirely bad for the sport in America, however, at least not for self-described futbol fanatic George Davidson.

Sitting in the center of Ha'Penny Bridge with a half eaten basket of pub chips and a glass of Guinness Stout, Davidson looked around the pub and smiled. The place was packed and there were still 40 minutes left until play began between the United States and Portugal. Anyone who arrived at Ha'Penny Bridge, or any bar in BoDo for that matter, after 3:30 p.m. quickly discovered they would be forced to stand if they wanted to watch the game.

"You won't find a single sport where there aren't fair-weather fans, just look at the Super Bowl," Davidson said. "Millions of people watch the Super Bowl every year, but I'd say probably half of that number seriously follow football throughout the entire season."

Davidson, a high-school soccer standout who still plays the game recreationally through his 40s, enjoys seeing the support and attention futbol receives in the United States--even if it is only temporary.

"The sport has grown so much over the past 30 years, especially in the last decade," Davidson said. "Seeing this much interest, even if it's only because of World Cup, is exciting because it's growth for the sport."

Seeing the most diehard fans join with fair-weather supporters like Zimmer in chants of "I believe that we will win" brings that smile to Davidson's face because that is the beauty of the sport to him--no matter who wins.

With only the volume of the televisions to battle, the fans packed inside Ha'Penny Bridge continued to raise their voices higher and higher, as if their support could be heard inside the Arena da Amazonia more than 4,500 miles away.

Even with the draw against Portugal, Davidson doubted any patron could look back on that game at Ha'Penny Bridge as a complete disappointment.

"A good day," Davidson said as he stood up from his table following the conclusion of the match. "Today was still a good day."

Whether July 2, after the conclusion of the USA-Belgium match, is a "good day" remains to be seen.

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