Salt Lake soccer fans may lack in numbers, but what they don’t lack is passion for the sport.
Or maybe that’s just a matter of opinion, which is also something Salt Lake soccer fans don’t lack.
Some fans think soccer is on the rise while others think it never will be popular as long as football, basketball, baseball and hockey exist.
Some fans think the U.S. team should be proud of how it played in this World Cup, while others are simply not impressed.
And then of course there are those who have opinions about the fans themselves.
“People here are still kind of learning the game so they kind of cheer at awkward moments, but in general most people understand what is going on,” said Jeffrey Sefa-Boakye, who sported a Ghana soccer jersey Saturday at the Green Street bar where fans watched Ghana beat the U.S. 2-1 to move on the quarterfinals.
“Like if there is a corner kick,” Sefa-Boakye said. “Things that people don’t normally cheer for, the fans here cheer for.”
One thing a Ghana soccer fan would most likely never do is cheer before a penalty kick is scored. Before Landon Donovan notched the penalty kick to tie the match at one goal apiece, U.S. fans at Green Street had already started chanting: “USA! USA! USA!”
“I think [the fans] enjoy the game,” said Troy Hickman. “I think they expect [soccer] to be like other American sports, but that doesn’t mean that the way they cheer is inappropriate. It means it’s American. That’s a good thing. It should be American. We should bring more people into the sport and make [the way we cheer] more American.”
A British fan thought the U.S. fans’ constant cheering comes across as being more passionate about the game.
“It’s weird, defensive plays get cheered on a lot more than they do in England,” said Bobby Parrett, from London. “In England we take it as part of the game. There’s almost a bit more passion that comes through. You get things cheered for that you don’t in English football.”
Bars around Salt Lake City, such as Green Street, the Republican, Fiddler’s Elbow and the Skyybox have become more popular during the World Cup because of their soccer bar reputation.
“There’s something about coming to watch the games with other people and the atmosphere,” said Jeremy Anderson. “I can watch them all at my house where I have a bigger TV, more room and it’s more comfortable. The atmosphere, the excitement and the people make it that much more fun. That’s why we come watch it here [at Green Street].”
Now that the U.S. has been eliminated, the tournament takes a different shape for fans as they are left to pick other countries to cheer for.
“It’s like when your team gets knocked out like the Jazz did in the playoffs,” said Mark Nacada. “‘Who do you root for now?’ ”
Some soccer fans go with their heritage and ancestry, or what team they feel has a good style of play. And when it’s impossible to pick, some base their next favorite team on uniform colors.
“I’ll probably cheer for Argentina [now],” Anderson said. “We have family there and they are a really strong solid team and they are my second favorite team.”
The tournament continues through July 11, and as the rest of the world waits to see who will be crowned the best in the world, so will many Utahns.
“You get a different perspective on sports instead of rooting for a city team like the Jazz or the Utes,” Nacada said. “You’re looking at the countries and you get to see the passion and what the fans are doing.”