It’s World Cup Mania For Fans

World Cup mania has swept the globe. But in the States, the game of soccer has not really been everyone's world cup of tea. Yet, true futboll fans can make it work under any circumstances. Host Tony Cox catches up with Krysia Avila from Brazil, Joseph Ogie Amedu from Nigeria and Florian Theus from Germany, three soccer fanatics living in the US, who tell him how they celebrate the biggest sporting event in the world.

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TONY COX, host:

I'm Tony Cox and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.

World Cup fever is continuing to spread around the globe with millions of soccer fans glued to TV screens. There are daily parties, the March Madness style brackets and, yes, of course, the occasional skipped hours of work. Still, in the U.S. and despite all of the kids we see playing through the spring, the summer and the fall, soccer, as we call it here, is not really considered a favorite national pastime.

So, what are real football maniacs to do? They make it work. To tell us how, we've gathered true soccer fans from three continents: Africa, Europe and Latin America. Joining us today are Krysia Avila from Brazil, Joseph Ogie Amedu from Nigeria and Florian Theus from Germany, all live now in the United States. Welcome to the program.

Ms. KRYSIA AVILA: Thank you.

Mr. JOSEPH OGIE AMEDU: Thank you.

Mr. FLORIAN THEUS: Thank you.

COX: So, let me guess, Krysia, I'll start with you. How closely are you following the World Cup?

Ms. AVILA: As closely as any Brazilian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: I would guess so. I would guess so.

Ms. AVILA: Yeah. We just talk about World Cup for a month now.

COX: When the World Cup comes, and because Brazil is so, you know, because it's Brazil, how does life change for you every day?

Ms. AVILA: Well, it changes in a lot of ways. Not only because I want to watch the matches and I feel bad because I can't watch all of them, but also your friends are constantly making jokes about your country, talking about the games on Facebook, on their email, calls. So I guess it changes a lot.

COX: Do you wear yellow and blue and green?

Ms. AVILA: Yes.

COX: You're not wearing it right now.

Ms. AVILA: No, because they're not playing, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AVILA: I will on Friday.

COX: Let me come to you, Florian, because you're from Germany. How does it change for you?

Mr. THEUS: Also I think in a lot of ways one is for sure that it has an impact on your work-life balance, especially now in the first round where some games start at 7:30 in the morning. And also, if you're trying to follow the game and you still try to deliver the same at work, that means probably you work a little bit longer hours. So that's certainly one big change.

The other is, I'd say even on friendships, because, you know, I have a Serbian roommate, for example, we lost against Serbia, I didn't show up for four days at home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Oh, wow. You guys are serious.

Mr. THEUS: And I would say the third element is it's a way of being patriotic. It's really a time where you can show where you're from and it's, you know, totally accepted to do that. It's still a little bit odd here in the U.S. because not everybody's following. And people might ask, why is this guy wearing a Germany jersey now? But in general that's certainly something...

COX: That's the way it goes.

Mr. THEUS: Yeah, changes for me.

COX: Joseph, let me ask you about that, being from Nigeria, because we know about Brazil in terms of the World Cup, and we also know probably more about Germany. I would suspect that people don't know as much about Nigeria's involvement. So how does that work for you in terms of your dealing with people and maybe you're wearing the national colors during World Cup?

Mr. AMEDU: Yeah, for me I got to explain this so everybody, we are playing good, you know, 'cause they lost two matches already, and everybody's, like, no, you lost. I'm, like, no, we're playing good, you know, we just lost by one goal and stuff like that. But right now I don't think any African team is doing good. So it kind of balances out.

COX: Now, one of the things, Joseph - and let me ask the two of you who are in studio with me as well, you guys, you know, and I mean, all the countries, everybody sings, you know. They sing at the games. So I want to hear what the Brazilians sing and I want to hear what the Germans sing and I want to hear what the Nigerians sing. So give us an idea, what is it that you guys sing? Don't be shy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: It's for your country.

Ms. AVILA: Okay, I'm not a singer, of course. So...

COX: That's okay. That's okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AVILA: But we say (singing in foreign language), which can be translated...

COX: But now if you're in the stands, you're going to be belting that song out.

Ms. AVILA: Oh yeah, no, yeah, of course, yeah.

COX: Okay. To translate it, it means what?

Ms. AVILA: But it means I'm Brazilian with a lot of pride and love. And I think that really shows the way that we feel right now during the World Cup.

COX: Yeah. So do the Germans sing too?

Mr. THEUS: Yeah, we sing. Absolutely. It's something like, for example...

(Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

COX: And what does that mean?

Mr. THEUS: So that means come on Germany. Just, you know, shoot a goal. Shoot a goal. And that's interesting because Germans are always considered to be defensive. No. No. We want to see goals.

COX: Really?

Mr. THEUS: We want to score as well. Score.

COX: That's interesting. Now do you guys have a song from Nigeria also, Joseph?

Mr. AMEDU: We sing its a kind of religious song. You know, its like from the Bible its like he answered Paul and Silas. You know, the story about Paul and Silas when they were locked up. And the Bible, you know, there's a song we sing. It's like...

(Singing) He answered Paul and Silas. He answered Paul and Silas say Jehovah answer Paul and Silas, he will surely answer my prayer.

So if you watch Nigerian games, before they start the first half, they always pray. You know, you see them run together and then the keeper in the middle and then they pray.

COX: Mm-hmm.

Mr. AMEDU: But when they start the second half they also pray. So its kind of a religious thing for them, you know, so that's why they sing religious songs.

COX: I'm Tony Cox and youre listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. And I'm speaking with three soccer fans from around the globe about the biggest sporting event, the World Cup.

Joseph, joining us from Chicago, he is from Nigeria. Florian is in studio here with me. He's from Germany. And Krysia is here in studio and she is from Brazil.

Now, here's a question for you about you continents, okay? Starting with you, Krysia. If Brazil, heaven forbid, doesnt make it all the way, are you going to support another nation from Latin America over Europe and over America and over Africa? Would the Brazilians do that?

Ms. AVILA: We may except for one country, Argentina.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: One country. Not Argentina. No matter what. Forget that.

Ms. AVILA: I have to say that. No matter what.

COX: Okay. What about Germany and Europe? Is it Europe after Germany is out, if Germany is to be out?

Mr. THEUS: No. No. I think, I'm in this case, I would just support those teams that I find play the most attractive soccer.

COX: So there's no European Union in soccer is there?

Mr. THEUS: No, not really. But since Spain for me is one of the countries playing the most attractive soccer, I think I would probably go for Spain.

COX: You could do that. Now what about in Nigeria, Joseph?

Mr. AMEDU: Yeah. It's like Africa first, you know?

COX: Africa first.

Mr. AMEDU: Yeah. We support any African country. It doesnt matter who they're playing against. Unless they're playing against you, you know, we always support all of them. It doesnt matter.

COX: So, instead of asking you how hard it is for you to see a game, what is the thing that you did the most so that you could watch the World Cup?

Ms. AVILA: Well, here in the U.S., taking the day off and explaining to my clients look, you can talk to me until midday, but after that I'm out.

COX: Now what kind of work do you do?

Ms. AVILA: I'm a lawyer. I work at multilateral bank but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Youre not a criminal defense lawyer who doesnt go to court because of the World Cup are you?

Ms. AVILA: No.

COX: Okay.

Ms. AVILA: But the good thing is I work with Latin America, so they kind of understand. But in Brazil I've done crazy things, like driving on the opposite side of the road and things like that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: To get to the game.

Mr. AVILA: Yeah.

COX: Oh my God. What about you, Florian?

Ms. THEUS: Actually, something that I haven't done but I'm planning to do, maybe I should rather talk about that. If Germany reaches the next round I will be going - I have to say I'm living in Washington, D.C. now and I would be going up to New York to watch the next game because I've had an experience four years where there's just much better atmosphere really to be a, you know, with other diehard fans.

COX: So you got to go away to Big Apple...

Mr. THEUS: I would go to the Big Apple.

COX: ...where the German fans really are.

Mr. THEUS: Yeah.

COX: I got you. I feel you.

Mr. THEUS: I'm not going to tell you the place though.

COX: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Joseph, what about you, craziest thing youve done to watch?

Mr. AMEDU: The craziest thing I've done, I dont think its nice for me to say, you know, but I had to get a mobile broadband Internet and then I had the laptop there. I was driving.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: You were - wait, you had the computer on with the Internet while you were driving.

Mr. AMEDU: I had the computer on while I was driving. I dont advise anybody to do that, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: Let me ask the three of you, because you live in the United States now, you are from other countries, you are diehard soccer fans. A: does it bother you that Americans do not seem to be into soccer the way you are? And why do you think it is that we Americans are not into soccer? And let me ask you first, Florian.

Mr. THEUS: I think just related to history where the U.S. is a big country but is totally focused on other sports. So then its and has marketed it very well, you know, living in the country of capitalism. And so it's hard for other sports to make inroads in that. And we know that even with the World Cup in 1994 that took place in the U.S., and everybody thought it might be a big boost, it didnt really happen.

COX: Does it bother you?

Mr. THEUS: You know, it more bothers me in that regard that I feel that I cannot really be the soccer fan or live it out the way that I would like to. You know, if Germany wins a game and Germany would have a big parade for the whole city. I think if we did that here the cops will come in, right, so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: That's interesting. Well, Krysia, does it bother you that, you know, there's not that frenzy for soccer here?

Ms. AVILA: It's not that it bothers me but it's something that amazes me. It's the second World Cup that I spent in the U.S. And I do see things a little bit better than last time. Last time I really felt like there was no place I could go to watch the games and people just wouldnt care. I was working in an environment that had only Americans and it was very tough to explain to them why I would skip work. But now I do see a change. It's not that it bothers me but I wish people would give more attention to that.

COX: You feel that way, Joseph?

Mr. AMEDU: It's much better now because in 2006, it was a lot harder to get anywhere to see the games and they had to show selected games. But now you can watch the whole game. So I think it's improving, you know. There's an interest now. It's much more better than it was the last World Cup. So in the next one, 2012, it's probably going to be better, much more better.

COX: So if I said to you, the three of you, as we bring our conversation to a close one kind of crazy question and then another more serious one, if I said to you, the United States is going to win the World Cup in 2010, you would say I was...

Mr. AMEDU: Crazy?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AVILA: Too optimistic.

COX: Crazy. Too optimistic. What? Delusional, Florian?

Mr. THEUS: Well, I think also its not very realistic but, you know, everything is possible in soccer and we see it right now in the World Cup, so.

COX: All right. So, we're going around the table. Who is going to win the World Cup in 2010?

Ms. AVILA: Brazil.

COX: Brazil.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. THEUS: No. Germany, of course.

COX: Germany. And, Joseph?

Mr. AMEDU: I wish it was going to be Nigeria, but I'm going to say Spain.

COX: Spain.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. AVILA: Oh.

COX: It's been a wonderful conversation with you sharing your stories with us and shedding some light actually, on your stories about the soccer. I'm going to start calling it football. I'm going to try to start doing that.

Mr. AMEDU: Yeah. Football.

COX: Our three football fans today are Krysia Avila from Brazil, Joseph Ogie Amedu from Nigeria and Florian Theus from Germany.

Once again, thank you very much. And in the mood of the World Cup, let's go out on the official theme song from South Africa.

(Soundbite of World Cup 2010 Anthem song, "Waving Flag Celebration")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) When I get older I will be stronger. They'll call me freedom just like a waving flag. Now wave your flag. Now wave your flag. Now wave your flag. Now wave your flag. Now wave your flag Now wave your flag.

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