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Latinos Elated After Rose Bowl Is Chosen for World Cup Finals


Latino soccer fans reacted with joy at the designation of Pasadena's Rose Bowl as the site for the finals of the 1994 World Cup, which is widely viewed as the world's most important sporting contest.

"Ever since the site was confirmed, fans have been constantly calling us to express their happiness and to inquire about tickets and their cost," said Jorge Ramos of KPLS radio.

Rafael (Felo) Ramirez, editor of Exito, a weekly sports publication, said: "Nothing can compare to the World Cup. Soccer is universal. In the Olympics, the attention is spread over many sports. The World Series, the Super Bowl or the pro basketball championship command only limited attention (around the world). By contrast, soccer captures all the attention in places as different as Costa Rica, Denmark, Russia, Kenya, Iran or Korea."

Because the tournament serves as a showcase for the rest of the world, some Southern California fans also see it as an opportunity to repair the tarnished image left by the participation of some Latinos in the Los Angeles riots.

After the announcement by FIFA, world soccer's governing body, the phone lines into KTNQ radio's "Hablando de Deportes" ("Speaking of Sports") program were flooded with calls from listeners who urged Latinos to use the event to counteract that image.

Some have also expressed concern about the behavior of fans, including Latinos, in the grandstands during the soccer games.

Ramos, from KPLS, said his station has campaigned against stadium violence because of the incidents he has seen in Santa Ana and Los Angeles. "The concern about good behavior isn't just for the World Cup, but rather for all of the matches, even though the principals in the brawls are a minority" of the fans, he said.

Although no stadium incident in Los Angeles can compare to the melees of the soccer hooligans of Europe or the rowdy South American fans, the local rivalry between Mexican and Salvadoran fans has occasionally turned violent.

The sale of beer at the Los Angeles Coliseum was banned for soccer games after a group of fans got rowdy April 14. They vandalized cars and damaged a KMEX-TV, Channel 34, mobile unit, as well as causing the premature ending of what had been a friendly game between Mexico's Atlante and El Salvador's FAS.

But local soccer officials have expressed confidence that the World Cup will bring out the best in people. Luis Lopez, president of the Guatemala League, which comprises 60 local teams, said: "Soccer is a festivity that unites. It already has been proven that in tough situations, people have united around soccer. It happened in Mexico in 1986 and in Argentina in 1978."

The 1986 World Cup took place several months after the devastating earthquakes in Mexico City. Yet the tournament was played without hitches amid general euphoria.

In 1978, "despite the depressing political and social environment that the country lived through and the repression, at the time, the people took a break and forgot about it all," said Marcos Rubinstein, an Argentine journalist who now lives in Los Angeles.

"Our people should take their happiness to the stadium: the flags, the banners, the cheers, the slogans, the streamers, the confetti, the musical instruments," Lopez said. "We Hispanics should be present, particularly with music and waving of the white handkerchiefs as a symbol of peace."

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