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Culture Club

USMNT Supporters Enjoy Building American Soccer Culture at FanHQ Parties in Brazil

RECIFE, Brazil - For USMNT fans and soccer supporters across the States, there have been more than enough reasons to celebrate since the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicked off on June 12. After grabbing four points in the first two games, all eyes were on the USA’s third, and perhaps most important, match of the group stage against Germany.

Although the U.S. ultimately lost 1-0 to Germany, the low scoring result saw the team out of the group stage and onto the Round of 16, which was reason to rejoice. This is the first occasion that the U.S. has advanced to the Round of 16 in consecutive FIFA World Cups.

Fans across the 50 states are backing the dream of advancing in the tournament and challenging for the FIFA World Cup Trophy. The U.S. fan presence on the ground in Brazil is equally stunning. Despite torrential rainfall, Arena Pernambuco in Recife was packed with people wearing red, white and blue stars and stripes.

With the amount of World Cup tickets being purchased by USMNT supporters, U.S. Soccer took notice of the increased fan interest in the team and has hosted a Fan HQ party filled with beer, food, music and a lively, fun crowd on the night before the games in each city the USA has played in during the tournament. For the team’s final group stage match, the Fan HQ party in Recife brought in some extra support to amp up the crowd.

To the delight of the masses, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati introduced newly popular fan icon Teddy Goalsevelt and comedic superstar Will Ferrell once the evening was underway. Ferrell, wearing a two sizes too small away jersey, joked with the crowd and told them that he was so honored to be playing tomorrow.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not in the best shape,” Ferrell said. “I’m not in soccer shape right now, but I’m gonna try my best and live up to the spirit of this American team.”

One fan said he knew there was a special guest coming. “I called that Sunil Gulati was gonna be on stage, and he was,” Robert Sagerian said. “But I had no idea that he was going to bring out Will Ferrell.”

Sagerian, a San Diego resident, said he is happy to see the support and love from the fans, believing that U.S. Soccer is on the rise.

“I think it really speaks to how far soccer is going, and it’s really reaching to everybody in the U.S.,” he said. “I think Will Ferrell is a class act, and for him to come all this way here and show his support really shows how far soccer has come in the country.”

The celebration was twice as nice for newly married couple, Austin and Morgan Kelley. The Seattle pair is in Brazil for their first World Cup, but it is also a special trip for another reason: it is their honeymoon. They dated for six years before recently tying the knot.

“I basically said, we need to get married before, otherwise we’re not going to Brazil,” Mrs. Kelley said. “We ended up here.”

They planned to go to the Fan HQ party in Natal, but their flights were delayed. After the USA-Ghana game, the couple spent some time in the sun and sand in smaller beach towns, came to Recife to watch the U.S. versus Germany game and were excited to experience the infamous fan party and meet other traveling supporters.

“Being able to combine everybody together in one spot before the pregame festivities is just awesome,” Mrs. Kelley said. “We’ve run into people we’ve seen at the first game and met at the first game and just making those connections so far from home is really nice.”

To Boston Police Officer, Richard “Dic” Donohue, being at the fan party is being in the company of friends. Attending his first World Cup, he flew all night and all day, but still came straight to the fan gathering.

“It’s great. Food, beer, other people cheering for America,” he said. “If you don’t know anybody beforehand, you’re amongst friends, people you get to know, people you get to meet cheering on the same team all under one flag.”

Donohue was injured last April during the manhunt for the alleged Boston Marathon bombing suspects. He said he always wanted to go to a World Cup and finally decided to go for it.

“This is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, and I guess that’s kind of propelled me to say, ‘this year is gonna be the year’,” Donohue said.

John Hennessey-Niland works at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and has been to every World Cup since 1990. He was born in Chicago and feels that U.S. fans have been influenced by the soccer mania in Brazil.

“We’ve got spirit, we’re noisy, we’re loud, we’re colorful, we’re patriotic, and I think we know our soccer,” Hennessey-Niland said. “And the world is taking notice. Before, people were like, ‘Ah, the Yanks. They don’t know how to play.’ I think we’ve changed that. We’ve convinced people we know how to play this game and do well.