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DATELINE WORLD CUP 2002/UNITED STATES

Soccer Fever Hasn't Caught on Everywhere

June 06, 2002

In some circles, though, the U.S. victory was greeted with an indifferent shrug across a nation where soccer is a sporting pauper.

Most avid sports fans are caught up in the NBA and NHL finals, and the World Cup in South Korea and Japan is generating interest only among hard-core soccer watchers.

"Americans are pretty oblivious to it for the most part," said Paul Carbone, 32, a sales representative in Boston.

"I'm a sports fan, but baseball, not soccer. I don't even know anybody really following it. It's not talked about as far as sports goes," Rob Grum, a clerk at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, said in a typical reaction from Americans to their national team's World Cup odyssey.

From the dearth of interest on sports talk radio, to the glum silence on commuter trains and subways and an insipid response from the White House, the great majority of Americans were nonplussed by the victory.

Not even in the soccer hot-bed of Miami could the national team grab the locals' imagination.

"I didn't see the match, I'm Brazilian. The U.S. won? That's a miracle," said 24-year-old Francisco DeOliveira in a city caught up by World Cup fever among its huge Latino and Brazilian immigrant community.

At the White House, where no president misses a chance to be associated with America's sports stars and President Bush hosts T-ball games on the lawns, the momentous result was met with a limp response.

There was no official expression of congratulations several hours after their greatest soccer victory since the historic 1950 World Cup 1-0 defeat of England, and Bush neither watched the game nor phoned the team, according to a White House spokesman.

"I can assure you he has noted their victory and has already remarked on it," said Ari Fleischer.

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Compiled by Jim Barrero

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