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The Washington Post

World Cup watch get together brings devoted soccer followers to D.C. park


Britt Robinson may have stayed residence or gone to a bar to look at america play Wales in its opening sport of the World Cup on Monday afternoon. However what enjoyable would that be? As a substitute the 27-year-old congressional staffer opted to hitch 1,000 or so different followers at Dupont Circle for Soccer within the Circle, an outside watch get together for the U.S. males’s first World Cup sport since 2014.

“It’s not every single day you get to be outside with different folks cheering on your nation,” Robinson stated. “It’s fairly particular.”

That sentiment was echoed by many others who managed to clear their schedule to look at the midafternoon sport on two giant screens within the park, undeterred by the below-average temperatures that hovered within the mid to excessive 40s.

Hesham Ibrahim, 45, who moved to america from Egypt 9 years in the past, introduced his sons and nephews to the circle. Draped in an American flag, the Fairfax resident stated he had been ready for this present day all yr to cheer on his group.

“The USA has given a lot to me and my household,” Ibrahim stated as his son Youssef Ibrahim interpreted. “That is the smallest factor we will do to indicate our thanks.”

Where to watch the World Cup in D.C.

The occasion was hosted by the Welsh authorities, so the Wales group had followers within the circle as nicely. Although distinctly outnumbered, they sang alongside to their nationwide anthem with gusto and by no means stopped cheering.

Aubryn Walters, an American who studied in Wales, got here to look at the sport decked out within the Welsh colours. Walters would root for the purple and inexperienced, she stated, however she additionally hoped to fulfill different folks from Wales and work on her language abilities.

“I observe my Welsh on Duolingo and it’d be nicer to observe it in particular person,” she stated.

Earlier than kickoff, the environment was gentle and cheery. Dance music performed. Beers have been consumed surreptitiously — the Nationwide Park Service park is an alcohol-free zone — and free popcorn and shortbread cookies have been supplied.

After kickoff it was all enterprise.

Soccer is a full-attention sport, and this was a faithful crowd. There have been lengthy stretches of attentive and intense silence punctuated by bursts of applause or gasps of anticipation because the U.S. group dominated the primary half. “U-S-A” chants began after which subsided. Yellow playing cards cautioning American gamers have been jeered. A refrain of groans arose as yet one more assault fizzled out.

However then, magic. The group’s star participant Christian Pulisic threaded a deft move to winger Timothy Weah who scored with fashion, and the Dupont crowd erupted in cheers, hugs and excessive fives. A person sporting an American flag as a cape dropped to his knees and raised his fists to the heavens. That is what that they had missed out on in 2018, when the U.S. group didn’t qualify for the match.

At halftime, Welsh followers weren’t holding out a lot hope.

“It’s very annoying. I’m not feeling very optimistic,” stated Seth Thomas, 23, who got here along with his sister Rachel Thomas, 29, to root for Wales. The siblings grew up in Columbia, Md., however they have been there representing their father, who’s Welsh.

His sister checked her cellphone.

“If my boss asks, I’m monitoring emails,” she stated.

This yr marks the primary time the World Cup has been hosted in a Center Jap nation. The primary full day of soccer from Qatar was not with out controversy. The captains of seven European groups, together with Wales, had deliberate to put on armbands in help of LGBTQ rights. However they abandoned the protest when FIFA, worldwide soccer’s governing physique, warned that gamers sporting the armbands would obtain yellow playing cards. That will severely hamper the group because the participant could be ejected have been he to obtain a second yellow card within the sport.

The last-minute resolution by FIFA to penalize gamers for sporting the armband was seen as an effort to not offend the host nation the place same-sex sexual acts between men is illegal and may topic them to seven-year jail phrases. The groups relented on the armband-wearing however not with out voicing frustration.

Qatar has additionally confronted protests and condemnation for its treatment of migrant laborers who got here to the nation to construct the stadiums and lodges in preparation for the occasion.

On the Dupont Circle viewing get together nonetheless, the main focus was completely on soccer and the sport being performed. The USA wanted solely to construct on its first-half assault and its first World Cup victory in eight years could be theirs.

However as dominant because the U.S. group was within the first half, they have been sloppy and unsure within the second half. Stress from Wales constructed, the U.S. crowd groaning with every misplay by the People. After escaping from a number of dicey conditions, the protection was lastly overwhelmed and Welsh star Gareth Bale was fouled and awarded a penalty kick. He didn’t miss.

After 10 minutes of additional time, the sport ended because it started: Tied. A deflating outcome for the U.S. followers at Dupont who had been thrilled by the group’s first-half efficiency and anticipated it to proceed. There was no rejoicing available — besides among the many Welsh contingent. The park emptied out rapidly.

“It wasn’t the end result we have been hoping for, but it surely was a superb time,” stated Elena Bachrach, 32, moments after the sport ended. She was strolling residence from a physician’s appointment when she determined to hitch the gang within the circle. Now she desires one other alternative.

“I used to be shocked to see so many individuals out right here,” she stated. “I hope they do that once more.”

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