Birmingham is soccer crazy over World Cup

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Four years ago, Dave’s Pub in Five Points South held viewing parties for the World Cup.

“USA-England match, we probably had about 200 people show up,” Larry Townley, the general manager at Dave’s Pub, said. “A lot of people were having to stand outside on the sidewalk, look through the window to try and watch the match.”

Dave’s has always considered itself a soccer bar, so it was the perfect place to host viewing parties for the World Cup.

“Throughout the years, it got bigger and bigger,” Townley said. “It started out with just five or six people showing up and as time went on, it got bigger and bigger and bigger until where it is today.”

Today, there are multiple places to watch the World Cup around the Magic City. Dave’s, Good People Brewing Company, World of Beer, Iron City are just a few of the places hosting watch parties.

For the United States’ first match against Ghana, nearly two thousand people showed up to Iron City.

“There was really just standing room only towards right at the beginning of the game,” said Hunter Bentley.

Bentley and a couple of his friends were the first ones at Iron City before the US’s second match against Portugal. They arrived at 11:00 a.m.

“We thought we’d get here early before and we ended up being the first ones here,” Bentley said. “The atmosphere and every that was going on for that (first) game just made everyone’s desire to get here as early as possible so we could just have a big group sitting together.”

Reaction to first US GoalAt Good People Brewing Company, where the American Outlaws watch every US match, there were around six hundred people for the first match. Around one thousand showed up for the match against Portugal.

“It was packed to the gills in here,” said Matthew Phillips, a member of the American Outlaws, about the first match. “I’ve never seen a crowd like that before. It was crazy.”

The crazy crowds all over town are sending a clear message: Birmingham loves soccer.

“It’s real exciting, especially growing up in Alabama, a place where soccer’s just always been looked down upon,” Bentley said. “To see the fire that it’s kind of caused and to see everyone become really passionate about it has to be exciting to see.”

“The kids in the suburbs, like Hoover or Mountain Brook or Vestavia, we’ve been playing soccer our whole lives,” Phillips said. “The crowd’s growing much bigger than people realize.”

With another four years before the World Cup in Russia, the expectation is there for crowds to grow even bigger by that time.

“This is just the start,” Townley said. “I think you’ll have every single bar in town will be showing matches. Everybody will be excited starting from younger kids all the way to adults.”

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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