People I have known for years that know nothing of football were talking formations, starting lineups and tactics. Certainly playing the English helped invoke exuberant pride and a nationwide longing to beat the British. Always healthy allies, it easy for the media to spin this match into a must-see. It is an interesting relationship between the two countries, almost one of older-brother, younger-brother. We may respect and admire our friendship with the British, but we certainly would never want to lose to them at anything.
Rather than be amongst English supporters at countless pubs in the city, my group chose an American sports bar, with about 95% Americans there on the day. And atmosphere was not lacking. It was truly an amazing moment when the Star-Spangled Banner began, and the whole bar erupted in song in a glorious show of patriotism. There was an energy in the bar I had not felt since London and England’s clash with Portugal in the 2006 quarterfinals. It was electric.
When Steven Gerrard neatly tucked the ball underneath Tim Howard to put the Brits up 1-0, the crowd fell silent. But not for long. At any chance, chants of USA filled the bar and by the time Clint Dempsey’s speculative shot squirmed underneath the hapless Robert Green’s arms, the crowd just about tore the roof off the place.
The historic rivalry of the two countries contributed significantly to the overall viewership, being billed as US soccer’s biggest game ever. Whether that kind of passion can be invoked while playing the likes of Slovenia or Algeria remains to be seen, but a trip to the last-16 against Germany could see the reaction go above and beyond that of Saturday.
I am under no illusion that because of the awesome displays of patriotism and footballing enthusiasm over the weekend that the US will emerge as a true soccer nation. We have our sports that dominate the mainstream, and that is the way it should be. American football, baseball, and basketball are who we are, they are our sports and ingrained in our culture.
But, without a doubt, Saturday was one of the greatest sports-watching days of my life. And it had nothing to do with any of the aforementioned sports. If just for one day, it truly felt special to watch the US become a soccer nation. I’ll never forget it.
Leave your thoughts on the game and your experience viewing the match in the US below.