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Before the World Cup started I regretted not being in England due to the lack of enthusiasm in the US for my all-time favourite sporting event. So it has been a real, and wonderful, pleasure to be in New York and see interest leap one hundred-fold from four years ago. One American friend who works for a British firm said she only followed the last World Cup due to the interest of the ex-pats but this time even her mother in  suburban America has been following the progress of the US team.

The amount of coverage between now and then has grown exponentially. For example, the photos above are from a World Cup exhibition sponsored by ESPN which includes paintings of each of the 32 competing nations and is in Columbus Circle, an upscale shopping centre smack in the middle of Manhattan, which have been used for posters that are plastered all over New York. Another friend said that four years ago most Americans didn’t even know the World Cup was on, let alone follow the US team.

After the US’ absolutely-last -gasp-time-added qualification for the last 16 The Wall Street Journal wrote that June 23 2010 was the day the football is boring argument finally died in the US:

“If you weren’t completely, utterly thrilled, exhausted and satisfied by Wednesday’s 1-0 Team USA World Cup thriller over Algeria, you’re a lifeless sports corpse.

But if you watched the U.S.-Algeria throwdown, you’re surely a convert. Did you not loudly slap your desk in triumph, hug or kiss a stranger, down a beer (or three) with your boss? Did you flee your desk entirely for the bar, and if you did, do you remember where you work—or your last name? Or are you at the airport without a suitcase, trying to wiggle onto a flight to South Africa?”

– BuzzFeed has the five best videos showing the reaction to Donovan’s goal from around the US.  It doesn’t include anything from La Guardia airport in New York. Someone told me that he had got off a flight just before the end of the US-Algeria game and suddenly heard thousands of people screaming when the goal went in;

– The Run of Play posts On Happiness after the game ;

– Landon Donovan’s goal is the first of 43 fantastic pictures compiled by the Boston Globe of the first two weeks which perfectly capture the magic of the World Cup;

– The New York Times writes that a foreign game looks very American (although I would argue the beauty of football is that it looks very global);

– At Salon, an American writes about falling in love with the beautiful game when he was posted to Hong  Kong in 1990 and saw everyone watching games involving teams who were from thousands of miles away and he wanted to understand why. I think Andrew Leonard understands it pretty well :

“I don’t know of another sport that can boast the same kind of slowly accumulating tension against a remorselessly ticking clock . When there are ten minutes to go to in a World Cup, there are ten minutes to go, (stoppage time excluded, of course.) It’s not like the last three minutes of a close NBA finals game, where time seems to stretch into infinity.”

So good luck to the US against Ghana today as I hope the love affair continues to blossom – and it will also help keep my mind off the monster England vs Germany clash tomorrow.

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Niketown on Fifth Avenue

“Not wishing to indulge in hyperbole of course but is this possibly the worst result since 1066?”

Paul Bowler in the Guardian

After Friday’s embarrassing performance  by England I was wary of even thinking about football but it proved to be a good lesson in letting go – despite my heartfelt wishes there was nothing I could do to change the result or the abject performance of my team. And I have been massively cheered up by the fact that we are still  not as bad as the French team.

In stark contrast to England, the USA played with so much passion and determination to came back from 2-0 down that you would think that football was their national game instead of ours.

There have been lots of comments on why  Americans haven’t embraced football and the World Cup but I can see a huge increase in enthusiasm from four years ago.

This time round Americans are aware their team are playing,  my Twitter feed on Friday showed that a lot of Americans were following the game despite being at work, the newspapers all had the shockingly-disallowed winning goal from the US on their front pages and ABC is broadcasting the main game of the day live.

I was able to watch the hugely enjoyable game (if you are not a Cameroon fan) between Cameroon and Denmark on regular TV and with proper commentary – this time round ESPN has hired experienced commentators from Europe who have actually watched a game of football in contrast to the baseball commentators they used in the last World Cup.

Some more evidence that the US is warming up to football :

US embraces beautiful game;

– The Onion writes a post about the World Cup in its own inimitable style: South African Vuvuzela Philharmonic angered by soccer games breaking out during concerts;

– a dating site uses the US vs England game to introduce American women to British men;

(However this demonstrates the vast cultural chasm that still need to be bridged. There won’t be British guys there, only English guys, as the rest of Britain absolutely hates the England football team; the men will be too busy watching the game and getting drunk – and pissed  Brits in a pub are not the most attractive sight.)

Glenn Beck thinks enough people know about the World Cup for him to rant about it : although off course, the reason for his hatred, the global nature of the game, is exactly why I love it.

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