Finding Serious Soccer Fans in the U.S.

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Inglewood, Calif., celebrate their country's match against England. i

Fans from Trinidad and Tobago at the Caribbean Tree House Restaurant in Inglewood, Calif., celebrate their country's World Cup match against England, June 15, 2006. Maja Cholody, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maja Cholody, NPR
Inglewood, Calif., celebrate their country's match against England.

Fans from Trinidad and Tobago at the Caribbean Tree House Restaurant in Inglewood, Calif., celebrate their country's World Cup match against England, June 15, 2006.

Maja Cholody, NPR

People around the world may lament the United States' disregard for soccer. But some immigrant communities around Southern California have soccer fever. Steve Inskeep reports.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you have any doubt that the World Cup is the world's most popular sports tournament, just follow along with us these next few minutes. A member of our staff has been moving through different neighborhoods in Los Angeles, where more than one-third of the people are foreign-born.

The early starts of many games have not cooled the fever.

(Soundbite of drums)

(Soundbite of crowd)

INSKEEP: That's the sound of L.A.'s Korea Town at six in the morning, Los Angeles time. The game, Togo versus South Korea, drew thousands of Korean Americans to the streets well before dawn.

A giant screen was trucked in and a battalion of drummers led the crowd in chanting for the home team.

(Soundbite of cheering)

INSKEEP: Across town at the Gaucho's Village restaurant, hundreds of Brazilian soccer fans packed into the bar to watch a match with Croatia. The owner is Kevin Aksacki.

Mr. KEVIN AKSACKI (Owner, Gaucho's Village Restaurant, Glendale, California): Every time Brazil plays, this is what it is. The hotter the environment, the better, the more beer we drink and a lot of drums, a lot of body shaking and a lot of samba and that's it.

INSKEEP: Carol Mora(ph), a student from Rio de Janeiro, was reminded of home.

Ms. CAROL MORA: Wow! It's amazing, like, being in the States, and being in a place that everybody is wearing a Brazil shirts, that, like - this is awesome and it feels like as if I was there.

INSKEEP: Brazil may be the golden child of world soccer, but the tiny nation of Trinidad and Tobago snagged a place in the World Cup for the very first time this year. And in a working class area of Inglewood, the Caribbean Treehouse Restaurant was a sea of black and red - the colors of their flag - for a 9:00 a.m. match with England.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CINDY CONDONIN(ph) : I'm busting out of my skin.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CONDONIN: This is the greatest of the great! Hooray, Trinidad and Tobago!

INSKEEP: That's Cindy Condonin, an immigrant from Trinidad. She skipped work to experience the game with her fellow islanders. But the country that won the game was not Trinidad and Tobago, but England.

And the English contingent was also represented in Los Angeles at a nearby beach town pub.

(Soundbite of cheering)

INSKEEP: As one pub-goer said, it feels good to win. You can find the latest World Cup results at our website, npr.org/World Cup.

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