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World Cup Brings Sports Fans of All Backgrounds Together

by on June 23, 2014 6:45 AM

Area sports fans are getting a good dose of World Cup soccer fever.

And maybe some whiplash too -- after Sunday's game between the US and Portugal came to a stunning conclusion with an amazing last second goal.

Sundar Srinivasan, who was born in India, has called America home for more than half his life.

While watching the World Cup at the Darkhorse Tavern on Sunday evening, his patriotism was on full display.

When Jermaine Jones sent the ball rocketing into Portugal’s net for America’s first goal, Srinvasan was on his feet clapping and cheering – and so was everyone else. For many watching the game in State College on Sunday, part of the game’s enjoyment was feeling a bond with those around them.

“Sports teams sometimes can really separate people,” recent Penn State graduate Shannon Grumbly says. “Especially at a school like this where everyone comes from different places. 

Grumbly watched the game with friends at Champs Sports Bar, which was filled with shouting fans, bustling waitresses and the sound of sports announcers booming from TVs.

For State College resident Chris Stubbs, the atmosphere of watching the game with so many other passionate viewers brought out the best aspects of the game.

“It’s such an excited place here during the game. It’s really great to feel this U.S. camaraderie,” Stubbs says.

Stubbs says sports can just as often divide as they bring together, with friends frequently rooting for different teams. By contrast, when the United States plays on an international stage, he finds it’s easy to feel a sense of pride in and connection to his country and those around him.

Farshid Ahrestani, who accompanied Srinivasan, says he finds that soccer is becoming more and more popular, as evidenced by the reaction to America’s performance in the World Cup. With the evolving ethnic makeup of the American population, as well as the undying worldwide popularity of the sport, he expects soccer will soon join the same league of major American sports as football and baseball. 

Pat McSherry, a senior in civil engineering at Penn State, first became interested in soccer because his father had played it. With “an emotional connection” to the sport, McSherry whooped and cheered at the TV in Champ’s with abandon.

“I was excited about the game, but now I’m a little nervous,” McSherry said shortly after Portugal scored the game's first goal. Stubbs also “felt a little disappointed to give up the first point so fast,” but felt the defense was making a strong effort.

Though the announcers reminded the audience that the United States had never won a World Cup game after losing the first point, the back-and-forth bout ultimately culminated in a tie. If the American team had won, it would have secured them a place in the 16-team knockout round. Should America draw or defeat Germany on June 26, they will advance to the next round.

Though Penn State student Drake Dodson isn’t sure how America’s team will do as the World Cup progresses, he looks forward to the next game and is hopeful for the outcome. 

“There’s a first time for everything,” he says,” and this might just as well be it.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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