Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Fans Adjust to 'Midnight Soccer'

All across the United States, football fans have gone to extremes to watch live broadcasts of the American men's team at the World Cup, even if it means losing a little sleep. Monday, Team USA's game against co-host South Korea started at 2:30 a.m. East Coast time. As Dave Ungrady discovered at a Washington, DC area restaurant, the early hour didn't deter hundreds of enthusiastic fans.

For nearly a quarter century, the management at Summers restaurant in Arlington, Virginia has catered to the international football fan. Every week, games from all over the world are shown on more than a dozen televisions around the dining area and bar. But Summer's managers have never seen this before. At 1:30 a.m. Monday, a few U.S. soccer fans linger outside the restaurant, a look of fatigue and frustration on their faces. The crowd inside has reached capacity. With the U.S. game against Korea set to start in about an hour, these fans are locked out and forced to consider a sneaky and possibly illegal alternative.

Fan 1:"Looks like there's a fire code so we might have to push our way in. Security looks pretty tight, but maybe we can get in through the back door."
Fan 2: "We still have an hour and ten minutes until gametime, so hopefully we'll be able to get in."
Ungrady:"You're determined to get in?"
Fan 2: "I prefer to get in. It's more fun to watch with a crowd than the privacy of your own home."
Fan 3: "It's different if you watch it here. You're among other soccer fans, and you get the energy and you're able to scream and shout and insult and whatever. It's great."

Inside, more than 200 soccer fans sit comfortably waiting for the start of the game. Some have been seated for seven hours, eating, drinking, and chatting. One woman, a teacher, arrived at 7 p.m. She passed the time grading papers, playing Scrabble, and drinking beer. About a dozen fans wear American flags draped around their shoulders. John Jenson from Washington, D.C., sports a red, white and blue top hat. He says he watched the previous U.S. game a win over Portugal at Summers.

"Last game was absolutely crazy," he said. "The U.S. won, we beat Portugal, biggest upset in modern history of soccer, there were fans on the street, cars honking, traffic stopping, everybody just had a great time, it was unbelievable. Because we could show our spirit, it was just great, everybody was friends, but nobody knew anybody. It was just great."

Only about a dozen South Korean supporters are among the crowd. South Korean native Ilyong Un sees a potential conflict with his American girlfriend, who sits next to him.

"It is very sad right now," he said. "I live in America, but I am not American citizen. I am Korean. But my girlfriend is American. I have to cheer for Korea. Maybe there will be big fighting."
Ungrady:"And your girlfriend is cheering for the United States, is that right?"
Ilyong Un:"Yeah, maybe,I don't like that. Maybe we break up."
Girlfriend:"We've been talking about how USA was not expected to win and Korea was also not expected to win, so it's going to be an exciting match."

Just moments before kickoff, American pride erupts during the playing of the national anthem half a world away.

By game time, there is little room to move inside the restaurant. In the back bar room, the air is stifling. The energy is electric. And after the U.S. scores first, a storm of emotion rolls through the crowd.

Summers has been showing every game of the World Cup live, that means staying open into the wee hours of the morning. Then, they rebroadcast the games all day long. Manager Joe Javedara says he's just trying to please his patrons. "Sixty days before the World Cup, we asked all the fans we have, if they wanted to see it live. 100 percent of them said yes, so we decided to do it," he said. "I know it's tough, the hours, but we have to do it. It's tough on the employees. They're all putting in their 10-12 hours shifts. And they are sacrificing a lot of free time they have. But for the fans it's tough too, they've got to come in the middle of the night and come watch the soccer."

By the start of the second half, about a dozen fans waiting outside to get in accept defeat. So, they cluster around the front window, staring intently at a large television screen inside the restaurant. It's the best they can do.

Dave Owens of St. Louis, Missouri is visiting his sister, who lives nearby. But she does not have cable television.

"I got here about five minutes into the game, that's why I 'm standing outside as opposed to watching it inside."
Ungrady:"Does this affect your enjoyment of the game, watching out here like this?"
Owens:"Actually, it's not. It's okay, it's not too bad. I'd probably be standing inside anyway."
Fan:"I do wish I was inside, but it's alright, it's a cool night and the crowd is just as energetic out here as it is in there."

Inside, the front dining room of the restaurant is mostly quiet, as neither team gives the crowd much to applaud during the second half. Even when South Korea scores at the end of the game, only a few claps can be heard from South Korean fans.

The game ends in a one to one draw. With one game remaining, both teams still could qualify for the second round.

With the second game now history, most fans head home… or to work… weary, but happy.

Korean fan:"Pretty much happy. I was very a little bit upset, nervous, but right now I'm happy."
Fan: We're sitting pretty for the third game, four points going into our third game I think is a pretty good deal, so feeling pretty good."
Ungrady: "Was it worth coming out here so early in the morning and losing sleep to watch this game?"
Fan:"Absolutely. Absolutely. I gotta be a work at seven thirty in the morning, but it was worth it, to cheer my country on. The greatest sport in the world.
Ungrady:"Do you plan to come out here for the game on Friday?
Fan:"Absolutely, I'll be here, cheering the U.S. on."