BY JOSEPH SIMS
Seattle native Joseph Sims, 21, will travel around the country during the World Cup in search of the heart and soul of soccer in the United States. Read about his journey in the Take 2 blog.
Few places I’ve been to have a better World Cup setup than Futbol Club in Overland Park, Kan., a Kansas City suburb. Three rooms, 10 TVs, three big projector screens, dozens of scarves, plenty of fun football extras and delicious beer.
The atmosphere was excellent, with everyone (including the neutrals) fixed to the first match of the day – Brazil vs. Chile – all the way through the 120 minutes and penalties. Despite this promising start, it was still a surprise to me when the second match of the day, Colombia vs. Uruguay, brought forth the happiest and most optimistic fans that I have encountered on my journey.
The first of several surprises was the huge crowd of Colombians at the bar. The fans numbered in the hundreds, over two-thirds of whom were wearing Colombian yellow. Thirty minutes before the game the place was already as crowded as Lexington, Ky., had been for USA vs. Germany. Moreover, it was LOUD. While there was little chanting, the instruments were everywhere – drums, tambourines, cowbells, horns, whistles, sirens – all being played constantly as the match approached.
A waiter said they get a similar crowd for every Colombia game. Apparently, in addition to being the official American Outlaws bar of the Kansas City area, Futbol Club is also the place where the Colombian-American Society of K.C. always comes to watch its team play. In the lead-up to the game, the bar switched the TVs from ESPN to Univision, so the commentary was in Spanish. The main bartender told me that this is something they regularly do when they get a large crowd for a Spanish-speaking team (most often Mexico and Colombia).
The second surprise was how positive the Colombians were. From the moment the match kicked off, they exuded nothing but optimism. Their drums, cowbells and whistles beat out an energetic rhythm from the opening whistle to the final one. Their voices egged on their players every time they entered the attacking third. This itself was nothing out of the ordinary for a regular USA game. What I wasn’t used to was the lack of negativity.
The attack gave away the ball to end a foray forward? The rhythm kept on beating. The defense committed an error that gave the Uruguayans a good opportunity to score? The Colombian fans refused to turn against their players. Not once, in the entire match, did I hear any Colombian criticizing or calling out his or her players, which was a stark contrast from the Americans, Italians, English or Brazilians.
This positivity was reinforced in a strong way in the second half, when torrential rain hit the Kansas City area, and the storm clouds blocked the satellite signal, temporarily shutting down the TVs in the bar. A groan was the only negative thing I heard all afternoon.
Despite an initial, restless quiet without the match on TV, the music resumed quickly. Phones and tablets were soon omnipresent as people scrambled to watch the match while waiting for the satellite signal to return. Not a single person left the bar. One Colombian fan joked with me about the TVs going out.
“I think this is planned,” he said. “They want you to feel like you are in Colombia when the lights go out!”
I couldn’t believe it. The TVs go dark with this man’s country 30 minutes from reaching the last eight of the World Cup for the first time in history, and he is laughing about it? Twice, several guys at the bar yell “goal!” to get everyone excited, then laughed when they looked around to see who was celebrating.
“We believe,” the first Colombian fan explained. “We believe the signal will come back.”
He then started talking to me about how much this match meant to Colombia. He told me about going to the 1994 World Cup to watch Colombia play in Pasadena, Calif., seeing them lose there and suffering with them as they fell out of the World Cup picture for over a decade after 1998.
The TVs came back on, and the fan pointed at them and told me that these players, like him, had grown up watching the glory days of the 1990s and the subsequent collapse of the 2000s. To finally have something to cheer about again was a dream for him.
“It means a lot more than just a soccer game to us,” he said.
In the end, Colombia cruised to a 2-0 victory. In the process, they won a new fan. Not because of the way they played, although they did play very attractive soccer, but because of their fans. They were happy, positive, optimistic, loud, passionate and fun. They made it feel like an American game, only with samba instead of chanting. And they were willing to include everyone in their party.
For the sake of the wonderful fans in Kansas City, I wish the Colombian team the best of luck in the rest of the tournament.
Joseph Sims, 21, graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla in May with a degree in politics. The graduate of Roosevelt High School in Seattle has an obsession with soccer that has taken him all over the globe, from the World Cup in South Africa, to the Emirates Stadium in London, to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry right here in Seattle. Follow his journey around the country during the World Cup to find the heart and soul of soccer in the U.S. in the Take 2 blog.
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