Watching the World play: World Cup is a big draw for local soccer players

Published 9:12 pm Friday, June 25, 2010

There’s nothing to bring the world together like a little soccer.

As the 2010 FIFA World Cup wages on in South Africa this summer, there’s plenty of fans watching intently in Austin.

There’s Riverland Community College freshman Tom Lindsay, who watches the game to remind of his home in Kenya, Austin High School grad Jacob Brehmer, who plays and loves the sport, and AHS soccer player Francisco Torres, who was introduced to the sport shortly after he was born in Mexico and has watched and played it most of his life.

For Lindsay, watching the World Cup games at his dorm room just doesn’t compare to his experience’s watching soccer at home in Kenya.

“I remember back home we couldn’t miss a game at all,” said Lindsay, who transferred from St. Mary’s in Winona and will play soccer for RCC in the fall. “We had to use our neighbor’s TV and we’d pile up in his living room. Guys would also look through the outside doors just to see it.”

Lindsay, who came to the U.S. 11 months ago to play soccer and get an education to become an engineer, has never missed a World Cup and he’d always get together with his friends to watch the games. A lot of times, the get-togethers didn’t end when the game was over.

“After every game, we’d sit there and analyze it for like two hours and that was a lot of fun,” he said. “Now I’ll watch a game and it’ll remind me of home. I think about home every day and I miss it.”

Lindsay likes to pay attention to the midfielders when watching soccer, since he plays that position. Kenya has yet to make a World Cup, but Lindsay usually fines an African team to cheer for.

“I always like the African teams because I can relate to them,” he said. “This year I’m routing for Gahna. But if I had to put money down, I’d have to go with the big teams like Brazil and the Netherlands.”

Torres, who will be a sophomore at AHS this fall, was born into the soccer haven of Mexico and, while he was raised in Austin, he still visits Mexico in the summer.

“In Mexico it’s the only sport and everywhere you go, they’re watching or playing soccer,” he said. “It’s cool that anything can happen in the World Cup and even the good teams can lose (last year’s finalists Italy and France have already been eliminated). That’s exciting.”

Torres has played on the Packers varsity team since he was an eighth grader and he’s always looking for some new moves while cheering on Mexico and Argentina, who he also likes because they have one of the top players in the world in Lionel Messi.

“I’ve been following the Cup close this year,” he said. “It keeps me motivated and helps me play better. I try to mimic moves that I see in the games.”

Torres said things would get interesting on the Packers soccer team when Mexico would take on the U.S.

“When the U.S. would play Mexico, we’d go back and forth and talk about who was going to win. That makes it fun,” he said.

Brehmer, who was an All-State midfielder for Austin as a senior, said that he is quick to cheer for Mexico when they’re not playing the U.S.

“You see how the other teams are doing and you route for them also. It’s a fun and eye opening experience at the same time,” he said.

Soccer has become more and more popular in the U.S. over the years and Brehmer credits the World Cup’s success to it being in national television. It’s also a big deal that the event takes place only once every four years.

“It’s the biggest soccer event there is and it’s tough to compare it to anything else,” he said.

While Brehmer enjoys watching the games, he found almost as much joy by introducing a relative to soccer. His uncle, who is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force who loves sports but hated soccer, always said that soccer was exciting as watching grass grow.

After the U.S. won a game with a late goal on Wednesday to advance to the round of 16, Brehmer’s uncle sent a text saying that it was hard not to get excited about it and that the whole office was watching and asking about the game.

”My uncle was one of those people who thought it was boring. He’s watched this tournament and now he’s a soccer fan,” Brehmer said. “That’s pretty cool.”