The Norman Transcript

Local Sports

July 1, 2014

Pub best barometer for U.S. soccer interest

NORMAN — Nobody knows what’s going to happen at 3 p.m. today when the U.S. and Belgium meet in the knockout round in Salvador, Brazil.

Here’s guessing most American soccer fans know Belgium’s in Europe, that a smattering may know Brussels, Belgium’s capital, is also the capital of the European Union. And, if they just happened to be political science majors with a focus on international relations, a very few might know Belgium practices proportional democracy, a system arguably more democratic than what we do here.

But Belgium soccer?

How today will play out?

Who knows.

Amanda Gorbet, however, knows something about what kicks off today inside Arena Fonte Nova.

She knows it’s going to fill the place.

“We assumed that we would have people who wanted to watch it,” she said, “but not necessarily to this magnitude.”

Gorbet is a manager at O’Connell’s Irish Pub, the legendary watering hole and restaurant that’s enjoying its second act on Campus Corner. Also a de facto sports bar, it’s become a pretty good ground zero for the understanding of America World Cup fandom.

“We have been almost entirely full for all of the USA games,” she said. “We’ve had a few guys come in that are die hard Dutch fans … But when the U.S. team is on, we have a large enthusiastic crowd, which is really kind of cool because nobody knew what to expect.”

This little nugget might tell the tale the best. 

According to Gorbet, while it’s been “almost entirely full” for each American game, it has also built with each game, culminating, thus far, with last Thursday’s loss to Germany, a narrow enough setback for the U.S. to escape what many had called “the group of death,” and reach the knockout stage. And the thing about that game? It began at 11 a.m.

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