MATCHES
 
 
The winners of the World Cup are yet to be decided on the pitch, but off it there is no doubt in my mind that there is already one winner - the American soccer fan.
The American fan is the big winner so far
06/29/2014
 
Jun 26, 2014; Recife, BRAZIL; United States fans look on during the second half of Germany's 1-0 win at Arena Pernambuco. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2014; Recife, BRAZIL; United States fans look on during the second half of Germany's 1-0 win at Arena Pernambuco. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY SportsUSAToday/Winslow Townson

The winners of the World Cup are yet to be decided on the pitch, but off it there is no doubt in my mind that there is already one winner - the American soccer fan.


Having spent a good two weeks around them, observing them and interviewing them, there is no doubt that there is a movement happening out here; something that psephologists and demographers will soon pick up on if it starts a wave on the USA's return.

There is an America out here that doesn't judge its loyalty by its sense of superiority to all things non-American, but by its proud place in the global community. It's an America that doesn't stand on the Mexican border with a firearm in one hand and a flag in the other. It's an America that resents being attached to the vocal drumbeat of wars, that is the preserve of some politicians.

"what I've noticed in this World Cup and also in South Africa is that you'll hear Americans almost everywhere you go now, whereas before really South Africa, it was pretty unusual to hear American voices. "
-ramsay thurber, veteran of 6 world cups-

Contrary to popular wisdom, it does not confine itself to cities or the two coasts. 


One of the more pleasant surprises out here has been meeting the large number of supporters from the supposed hinterland of the States, Kentuckians, Georgians, Oklahomans and Arizonans - even two Hawaiians. I have spoken to bartenders, marines, environmental engineers, accountants, teachers and ornithologists.


It's also an America that is very very proud of the flag and of being American, but lacks the need to constantly bellow American superiority to any passing foreigner.

Also - there are also a hell of a lot of them.

"American fans are now a fully paid up member of 'soccer international', not a curiosity or a fringe group."

On the flight from Recife to Salvador, I met Ramsay Thurber from Dallas. 


Thurber is a veteran of six World Cups.  He observed with pride how American attendance at the World Cup has grown over the last two decades:

"I think what I've noticed in this World Cup and also in South Africa is that you'll hear Americans almost everywhere you go now, whereas before really South Africa, it was pretty unusual to hear American voices."


It's just amazing to me, having been to six World Cups, to see the ballooning of American attendance. 

What pleased Thurber even more than the number, is the way they are conducting themselves and how they have been received by their Brazilian hosts:

"I think Americans from time to time can get a bad rap, but what I notice is that Americans are very good at integrating into different societies and they have really taken in Brazilian flair and friendliness and I see everyone really enjoying themselves, and honoring the culture."

It's a far cry from the (admittedly unfair) stereotype of the American tourist looking for the nearest McDonalds, and ill equipped to speak the language. And it's also a far cry from the stereotype of a land filled with soccer haters, suspicious of the game and the people who play it although reports of such articles being written at home have reached Brazil and caused some amusement.

This phenomenon is not just the result of American internal navel gazing either.

This German fan spoke to us the night of his side's 1-0 win over the USA in Recife.

Another telling factor is the first question asked of me when I am overhead speaking English.

In the old days, attempts to discern my nationality would contain a series of guesses linked to the constituent parts of the British Isles; 'anglais, ecossais, irlandais?'  for example in 1998. This was the case whether the United States had qualified or not.

Now the first guess is 'americano'. American fans are now a fully paid up member of 'soccer international', not a curiosity or a fringe group.

"I don't think anyone is having more fun than the American fans here," said Noah from Oklahoma even as he waited bleary eyed for a 3am flight to Recife from Belem.

Jeremy from New York City added, "It's been amazing," while waiting for the same flight.

Will this have a lasting effect on the type of country the USA is? That might be a stretch and we won't know until we start to see tv viewing numbers both for Major League Soccer and for the next set of USA friendlies.

The arrival of the Woman's World Cup in Canada next year will soak up the appetite for the desire for more global competition and thereafter lies the Copa America on our own shores.

To paraphrase Jeremy, it may be amazing for a while longer yet.

 
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