SBD/Issue 195/Events & Attractions

Officials Feel Confed Cup Run A Sign Of U.S. Soccer Progress

U.S. Soccer Officials Show Optimism Following
Disappointing Loss In Confederations Cup Final
The U.S. men's national soccer team lost 3-2 to Brazil yesterday in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but MLS Commissioner Don Garber called yesterday a "great day for U.S. soccer that will go down in history as one of the truly great moments for our sport," according to William Rhoden of the N.Y. TIMES. U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati admitted the result was "disappointing," especially considering the U.S. led 2-0 at halftime. However, he said, "On the positive side, we made progress at this tournament and are proud of reaching the final." Garber added, "We proved that we can compete at the highest level." Rhoden writes there must "come a point in the discussion of soccer in the United States when the training wheels must be removed," as either "this is youth soccer, in which the goal is to let everyone play, or this is the big time, in which second or third place is no longer acceptable." Regardless of yesterday's outcome, though, soccer "faces two major challenges" in the U.S. The first is "how to continue to attract great athletes," while the "more difficult challenge is to cultivate a broader consumer appetite" for the sport in the U.S. Gulati: "Anytime you're playing for the championship against a team generally considered the best team in the world for the last 75 years, it's a great chance to get a lot of people who are part of the soccer community in the United States interested in the national team and excited to be part of an international game" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/29).

LASTING EFFECTS? In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones writes, "We all paid attention Sunday. But now it's Monday, and we've put soccer back on the shelf until the next time the Americans do something special. We'll pay attention then, and then we'll forget about it until the time after that." Jones: "The next time Americans will pay attention to soccer is when the World Cup is played a year from now" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 6/29). NBCSPORTS.com's Mike Celizic wrote under the header, "U.S. Run Won't Change Our Minds About Soccer." Celizic: "It’s too bad the United States didn’t win, if only because of how much fun it would have been to listen to the soccer evangelists telling us how this would be the victory that would take the favorite sport of five-year-olds to major-league status in the United States. We’ve been hearing that sermon for 34 years, which is how long it’s been since Pele ... signed with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League." Celizic: "Nothing will change. Come Monday morning, we’ll be back to talking about baseball and looking forward to football" (NBCSPORTS.com, 6/28). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote if Pele "couldn't make this country care, no one could." Freeman noted after the U.S. beat Spain in the semifinals, U.S. MF Clint Dempsey said, "This win is huge for American soccer." Freeman: "How many times have Americans heard the soccer-will-transform-us mantra before?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/28). In Sacramento, Bill Bradley writes the U.S. had a "good run," and it was "fun to watch." But the U.S. had "two wins out of five matches," which "won't suddenly make soccer the U.S. sport" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/29). However, in Denver, Dusty Saunders writes under the header, "U.S. Effort Vs. Brazil Lifts Soccer Interest." Saunders: "I'd forgotten how fast-paced and entertaining professional soccer can be. ... Sunday's game whetted my appetite for more" (DENVER POST, 6/29).

WORLD OF HURT: In South Africa, Fiona Forde reported FIFA corporate ticketing agent Match Hospitality indicated that all corporate seats for yesterday's final at Ellis Park in Johannesburg were "sold and will rake in more than" $3.5M. But only 204 of the 330 corporate suites at the stadium "went on sale for the fortnight-long event," as Match Hospitality Head of Marketing Peter Csanadi said that the rest were "not fit to be marketed." Forde noted generally the "corporate uptake throughout the tournament has been embarrassingly low, with the so-called 'ring of shame' looking bare at Ellis Park and the other three stadiums at Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg for most of the games." South Africa 2010 World Cup CEO Danny Jordaan: "It's a sign of the times" (SUNDAY INDEPENDENT, 6/28).

Soccer City Stadium To Be Crown Jewel 
Of South Africa's World Cup Venues
WORLD CLASS: REUTERS' Mike Collett wrote South Africa's 94,000-seat, $379.5M Soccer City Stadium will be the "biggest soccer stadium in Africa" and "promises to be an unforgettable venue for next year's World Cup and one of the world's most spectacular sporting arenas." The stadium is "distinctive, resembling a huge calabash," which has "inspired the colouring of the orange and brown membrane that surrounds the stadium while a ring of lights will illuminate the bottom of the building, simulating fire underneath the pot." The stadium will have "more than 150 executive boxes commanding superb views of the pitch," and a 300-seat restaurant is "being completed inside the stadium, with parking for 15,000 cars around the perimeter." There also are plans to "incorporate the result of every match in the World Cup into the tiling of the membrane as games are played" (REUTERS, 6/27).

WORKING OUT THE KINKS: In N.Y., Jere Longman wrote the answer as to whether South Africa will be ready for the World Cup "appears to be a qualified yes." The Confederations Cup was "reasonably well run," as the four stadiums were "safe and secure, and construction on other stadiums should be finished by the end of the year." Fans also were "celebrative and supportive of all teams." But Longman noted few international visitors attended the tournament, a "park-and-ride system to ferry fans to and from the stadiums often worked poorly," and 15,000 more hotel rooms are "still needed to fully accommodate" fans for the World Cup. Several "highly publicized incidents, involving the disappearance of money from the hotel rooms of Egyptian and Brazilian players, and the mugging of a few British rugby fans, also left organizers scrambling." The organizers acknowledged that they "still must convince World Cup visitors that they can move around safely in a country that averages 50 murders a day and is beset with escalation in crimes like carjacking." But FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said that "'at the top of the top of the list' for FIFA is improving the World Cup transportation system in a country without a reliable national rail network" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28).

AROUND THE HORN: In L.A., Robyn Dixon noted players, coaches and journalists during the Confederations Cup "called for a ban of the 'vuvuzela,'" a stadium horn that is blown by fans during soccer games in South Africa. A stadium full of vuvuzelas, "all tooting simultaneously, is either a most exhilarating and exciting sound or a noise so irritating that it borders on being painful, depending on the listener." The sound has been compared to a "deafening swarm of wasps" or a "herd of flatulent elephants." FIFA President Sepp Blatter said recently that there are "no plans to ban the trumpet" during the World Cup (L.A. TIMES, 6/28).

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