Who Says Americans Aren’t Soccer Fans?

By Suzanne Kianpour
|  Monday, Jun 14, 2010  |  Updated 2:01 PM EDT
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PHOTOS: Watchin' the World Cup

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RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 12: USA fans show their support ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between England and USA at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 12, 2010 in Rustenburg, South Africa. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

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Long Street was flooded by a sea of red, white and blue with a few islands of English flags spotting Cape Town Saturday night after the brutal and historic game between the U.S. and England resulted in a 1-1 tie. 

The match left everyone watching on the edge of their seats or -- in the case of those watching in Cape Town’s Fan Park -- standing on their toes for the duration of 90 minutes plus stoppage time.

In an effort to provide a venue for fans without World Cup tickets to still watch and celebrate the games in a stadium-type setting, FIFA built fan parks with a large TV screen, beer and concession stands, and soccer shootout games.

About an hour before the game began, people were flocking to the fan park, vuvuzelas in hand, South African-styled fan helmets on head and team spirit beating in their hearts.

With relations between the U.S. and Britain shaky on the political spectrum and British newspapers reporting of oil industry accusations of anti-British sentiments by President Barack Obama because of “British Petroleum” references, the match on the field had the sense of more than just a game. Not to mention the elephant in the room, or shall I say park: the Yanks, once upon a time colonized by the Brits, sacrificed thousands of young soldiers around the same age of those very soccer players to declare their independence hundreds of years ago.

So when it comes to any sort of match-up between two nations with a history of political drama, the stakes on the field always seem a bit greater.

As far as attendance at the fan park, U.S. representation quite possibly far exceeded that of the British supporters -- as did their noise. Also worth noting is the creativity of the fan gear present in the park.

Dave Koken, 23, a Grassroot soccer organization volunteer and recent graduate of UC-Berkeley, decided to try an American take to the popular South African-style helmet. He deflated a soccer ball with the letters U-S-A printed on it and cut it into a shape that would fit on his head.

“This is way more legit than anything I could find in a store,” he said.

Many fans had decorated vuvuzelas with colorful tape, made makeshift flag capes, gone Picasso on their faces with abstract face paint, created lettering on old soccer jerseys -- all to show how much they support their home team to the utmost degree.

Others showed their support for the love of the game by making sacrifices.

“I haven’t slept in 82 hours,” said Fawzi Kronfol, 26, a Washington, D.C. native, currently residing near the National Cathedral.

The D.C. area actually has had quite the amount of fans in Cape Town during the World Cup so far.

Michael Anthony D’Angelo, a 25-year-old defense contractor, came all the way from Reston, Va., to root on the Yanks in the Fan Park on Saturday. John Charles Wagner Jr., 44, a self-employed construction insurance broker, is a soccer fan whose daughters have played in Bethesda soccer clubs. He is pleased to have seen soccer popularity grow in the D.C. area over the years. Wagner will be traveling between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth to see three games before he returns to the States.

Seeing the support for the Yanks after the game Saturday night all the way in Cape Town is an indicator of how wrong most people are about Americans and soccer: yes, the U.S. does like soccer and, based on the improvement of the programs in the States over the years, the sport is only going to get more popular.

OK, maybe it’s not the language of our nation like some other countries in the world, but it’s getting there. Stay tuned for the next game against Slovenia this coming Friday.

Suzanne Kianpour is a soccer fan and desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, D.C. She'll be filing reports from South Africa throughout the tournament.

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