Monday, July 18, 2011

Women's World Cup final between U.S., Japan sparks Denver fans

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Europeans are known for their almost cultlike following of soccer. And for some in Denver, the sport is a religion, with The British Bulldog soccer bar as their cathedral and Abby Wambach as their goddess.
"I'm not a religious person, but this is like my church," said Keith Laubhan, 29, of Denver, before Sunday's Women's World Cup final between the United States and Japan. "I come here, and I've got community. There's elements of faith."
His barmate, Mario Nicolais, took it a step further.
"I'm religious, and I went to church this morning and said a prayer for the U.S. women's national team," Nicolais, 32, retorted with a laugh.
About 300 soccer fanatics drank, sang and chanted at the British pub, only to watch the Americans lose 3-1 in a penalty shootout.
Though the outcome wasn't what fans hoped for, general manager Wendi Reed tried to keep them feeling patriotic with red, silver and blue beads, large American flags throughout the bar, deafening chants of "U-S-A" and traditional soccer songs.
Only one pubgoer, Irishman Shane Barrett, predicted Japan's victory.
Barrett, who moved to Denver from Ireland nine months ago, woke up extra early to blast the Japanese anthem in his home.
"I started to get a little love for Japan going here," he said, with a smirk. "Of course I wanted to see USA win, I was just trying to make it a little more entertaining."
While the USA team has skills, some fans at The British Bulldog pointed out that it hasn't hurt TV ratings that they're also attractive.
According to Shayna Teutscha, a 33-year-old youth soccer coach and teacher who lives in the Dominican Republic, Alex Morgan and may have caught male viewers' attention, but men kept watching because of the team's talent and resiliency.
"They just have a swagger, an attitude about them," said Thomas Garza, a 24-year-old from Thornton. "It's a lot prettier of a game to watch than the men's games. The men just seem like they're out to kill each other. The women, you see all of their skill and hard work, the look on their faces when they run for a ball."
Veronica Davis, 23, sporting an Abby Wambach jersey, added that female players tell the story of the game on their faces, which makes the loss even more heartbreaking.
"You can see just how much they actually want to win," Davis said.
Not only did they emote, they spoke eloquently and with class to congratulate Japan. That kind of poise will be replicated by the more than 65,000 youth soccer players in Colorado, according to former girls coach Carisa Donahue, 32, of Denver.
"My girls are so geeked about this game," she said. "They're super pumped. I'm seeing all their Facebook posts and that they're getting together to watch the game."
Colorado College women's soccer assistant coach April Kater spent the last two weeks in Germany, where she watched eight World Cup games.
While there, she thought the "American mentality" had captivated fans from all countries. The team finally caught the attention of its home country too. The previous two U.S. matches averaged more than 3.5 million viewers.
"At moments, we might not be playing the most attractive soccer, but we're getting it done and that's what counts," she said.

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