Reposted from World Cup guest blogging at Young Germany.
This past Sunday, June 22nd, I attended the Atlanta Soccerfest. At the event, it became clear to me that my city has finally started to embrace soccer, or at least the World Cup. It was at Brookhaven Park in North Atlanta and was the biggest American soccer viewing party I have ever been to. Honestly, it may be the biggest watch party I’ve ever been to. The FIFA FanFests in Europe during the 2010 World Cup were incredible, but the amount of people in attendance at this event blew me away.
It’s estimated that 20,000 people participated throughout the day. The event boasted not one, but two giant 11’x17’ screens, VIP viewing areas, soccer arcades and mini-games, and 5k fun runs. The 5k kicked off the activities around 8am (a little too early for me) and activities were scheduled all the way through the highly anticipated USA vs. Portugal game. All three matches were shown, the Atlanta Silverbacks provided clinics, bouncy houses, face painting, food trucks, and of course beer. The event was free, made possible by several great sponsors includingTerminus Legion and MLS Atlanta – two organizations I belong to that are doing great things for soccer in the Atlanta area. Other sponsors included my previous employers, Georgia Soccer, as well as my favorite beer company Sweetwater Brewing Company. I’m sure you can tell I had an amazing time.
I’ve included some pictures to give you a taste of the scene, including this YouTube video of the crowd erupting following Jermaine Jones’ equalizing goal.
Tents, blankets, chairs, and coolers were all allowed, but hardly touched since we ended up standing the entire time. Here is a picture I took from our “seats,” followed by a picture of people celebrating our first goal.
I didn’t fully realize how many people were there until we were leaving. After the final whistle, the people in attendance turned into a herd of thousands funneling through narrow exits and towards their cars or MARTA. MARTA is our Atlanta transit system, conveniently located right across the street from the park. Having this type of infrastructure in place really becomes the catalyst behind high attendance numbers. People want their events to be as pain-free and convenient as possible. It’s also nice when you can stumble to the train and don’t have to worry about driving home
Here are two pictures of the scene while we shuffled away from the park.
Bonus picture: two of my friends celebrating the goal with a Britney Spears poster. Needless to say, the crowd went wild… Can’t get more American than that.
Overall it was a hot, but awesome day. I was blown away by the organization and turnout; I guess I had pretty low expectations from the beginning, though – typical of any American counting on fellow citizens to support a “foreign” sport. I look forward to continuously promoting American soccer following the World Cup, to avoid the “Olympics Effect,” where the majority population will forget about soccer until 2018. Events like this do help, though, and should be continued for MLS, international friendlies, and Euro 2016.