World Cup Fever Hits Knoxville

By Alex Norman

I’m going to admit that I’m writing this article on the eve of the World Cup, so for all I know Knoxville will show complete indifference to one of the biggest sporting events in the universe…

But when you look at the way that the sport has grown in recent years, the odds are that won’t be the case.

For the next few weeks, despite the out of control corruption at the highest levels of soccer’s governing body (FIFA) and the citizen protests in the host country of Brazil, the world will come together to watch the beautiful game.

If you are still looking for a reason to join in on the fun, I’m going to lay out a few of them… here we go…

In terms of local flavor, Yes Virginia… there is a Knoxville connection!

Actually, two of them…

Jeremy Hassler, a University of Tennessee graduate, is a Soft Tissue Specialist & Athletic Trainer at Athletes’ Performance.  He is also a trainer for the US Men’s National Team.  Hassler has been able to see the world with this job, and is one of the best in the business.

Shad Forsythe, a University of Tennessee graduate, is an International Soccer Manager at Athletes’ Performance.  He is also the Head Fitness Trainer for the German National Team.  Like Hassler, Forsythe has been able to see the world with this job, and is one of the best in the business.

Hassler and Forsythe have been good friends since their time in Knoxville in the mid-late 1990s, and when the USA faces off with Germany on Thursday, June 26th, it is possible that the result of the match will advance one team and send the other one home.  Either way Big Orange County will be represented at Arena Pernambuco in Recife.

Next reason you should care… patriotism.  If you don’t like America you can leave it bub!

All kidding aside, it is a communal experience.  For one rare moment, fans of Alabama and Auburn, Tennessee and Florida, Ohio State and Michigan… and every rivalry in between… can cheer together for the Americans to beat Ghana.  If looking for a place to let your national pride shine through with other Red, White and Blue souls, might I suggest visiting Crown & Goose in the Old City.

The local “American Outlaws” chapter (Rocky Top Outlaws) will be watching all the World Cup games at that location, and the place will have tons of energy when the Americans face Ghana (June 16), Portugal (June 22) and Germany.  The Germany game kicks off at Noon, so why not extend that lunch hour a bit?

American Outlaws currently has 136 chapters across the country, and has become the top USMNT supporting group.  It’s a great way to make friendships while rooting on Team USA.  You can follow them on twitter at @AOKnoxville to more details about the local chapter.

Next, the games themselves… for everyone that says soccer is boring and there isn’t enough action… well, I understand your complaints.  Soccer can have its lulls.  But this will be soccer played at its highest form.  The 32 teams competing for the World Cup have prepared the past four years for this very moment. The brilliance of Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo, Argentina’s Lionel Messi, and Brazil’s Neymar has to be witnessed to truly understand.

The passion of the fans in attendance in Brazil will be unmatched.  Think about it, it you spent all that money to travel across the world to see your team play you’d be really into the games too!  The flag waving, the singing and dancing… the games are a spectacle, a rare treat at a time when sports are more and more homogenized…

And finally, football season is still two and a half months away.  What else do you have to do with your sports TV time?  And you know you’ve watched everything on Netflix.

The US National Team is going to be hard pressed to advance to the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup.  The draw put them in the dreaded “Group of Death,” with two of the top 10 teams in the world (Germany and Portugal) and the team that has knocked them out of the past two World Cups (Ghana).

The Americans are the underdogs…

But underdogs win sometimes…

Enjoy the games, Knoxville…

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