Wichita’s soccer enthusiasts are ready for the world

06/10/2014 10:28 AM

06/10/2014 8:51 PM

Daniel Green won’t be in Brazil for the World Cup, and he is fine with that.

The way soccer fans across Wichita come together and embrace the sport, he thinks watching matches locally is every bit as fun as watching matches in stadiums.

“There will be chants and there will be beer,” Green said. “Every game will be a great time. It’s what we do.

“It’s not the same as a stadium environment in Brazil, but it is the next-best thing.”

Green plans on watching the World Cup at the Monarch, a bar in the Delano District that regularly plays host to Wichita’s most avid soccer enthusiasts. As president of the local chapter of the American Outlaws, a fan group that supports U.S. Soccer, Green has organized watch parties there that have drawn more than 70 people for qualifiers and friendlies, a soccer termfor exhibition matches.

He expects larger crowds this month.

“The World Cup tends to bring out a whole new group of people that want to watch soccer,” Green said. “Soccer is a community, especially when it comes to the World Cup. It’s not about your favorite player or your favorite club, it’s about that crest on the front of your jersey that brings everyone together.

“When the USA jersey is on, it has a uniting factor.”

For that reason, soccer crowds will likely be found all across town during the World Cup. The rise of Major League Soccer has made the game more popular.

Though it is still gaining on football, basketball and baseball, it is no longer an overlooked sport. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will televise every game of the World Cup, which means it will be on TVs at sports bars and restaurants everywhere.

Throw in match times that range from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., as opposed to past World Cups played overseas, and this could be the most viewer-friendly World Cup in recent memory.

The American Outlaws are hosting watch parties for U.S. games at the Monarch and at Fox and Hound.

“You are going to find watch parties all around,” said B-52s coach Larry Inlow. “Now more than ever, I think local businesses are recognizing how many people love to watch these games and will come out.

“There are going to be a lot of different venues to watch it. The Monarch is a great spot, but you can go to any normal sports bar. Old Chicago will have it on every TV they have, I guarantee it.”

The World Cup begins Thursday with a match between Brazil and Croatia. The 32-team tournament won’t end until the July 13 championship.

The United States will begin group play Monday against Ghana, followed by games against Portugal on June 22 and Germany on June 26.

Two teams advance out of each group to a single-elimination, knockout round of 16 teams. The Americans won their group in 2010 and made it to the quarterfinals in 2002, but they are considered underdogs this time in Group G.

Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s best player, will lead the way for Portugal. Germany is ranked second in the current world FIFA rankings. And Ghana has beaten the United States in each of the last two World Cups.

Still, U.S. soccer fans are hoping for a strong showing.

“We have had success against Portugal in the past,” said Johnny Ferreira, a member of the American Outlaws and the Douglas Street Hooligans, “and four years have passed since the last loss to Ghana.

“Jurgen Klinsmann is managing the national team now, and he has a lot of great ideas. I think he put together a really great squad of 23 players. The midfield is strong and it has one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Tim Howard.

“I think we are going to surprise a lot of people. I am one of the few people who think we will advance out of the group stage. It is going to be tough, but I am hardcore. I believe in our club. Until they prove me wrong, I think they can win the World Cup.”

Green agrees.

“The American mentality is what makes us so great,” he said. “We always find a way to surprise you.”

Whatever happens, Green knows he will enjoy watching the matches with friends and strangers alike.

“It’s nice to have a place to call home, where you don’t have to fight with people about watching some basketball game that’s on,” Green said. “Soccer is not the most popular sport in our country, but it is rapidly gaining.

“We don’t feel like outlaws watching soccer anymore. We are a community anyone can join, and I think we will grow during the World Cup.”

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