On South Street, soccer wins

Posted: July 15, 2014

THEY CAME FROM far away, in South Jersey, both wearing red Phillies shirts amid the sea of multicolored soccer jerseys that had flooded South Street.

They heard the strange sounds of European techno, saw men wearing knitted scarves on a sweltering Sunday - and it wasn't so bad, they said, because the men playing soccer on the 20-foot screen in the center of South Street were "really hot."

"We came for the beer," said Ashley Cleave, 24.

"We came for the Phillies [on the bar's TV], but the men from Argentina are hot, too," said her friend, Sara Varoni, 25.

The two friends were among thousands who packed into South Street, between 7th and 8th streets, sweating, smoking and drinking their way through the Argentina vs. Germany final yesterday in the World Cup in Brazil. Many wore German jerseys with "Schweinsteiger" or "Podolski" on the back, and when Germany's Mario Goetze scored the winning goal in extra time, at 5:24 p.m., the crowd went verruckt.

"I lived there for about a year, so this is huge," said John Gingrich, 50, of Harleysville, Montgomery County.

Gingrich said he grew up playing soccer in the United States, but his skills were laughable in Deutschland, so he often played basketball instead.

"They thought I was Michael Jordan on the court," he said.

Brauhaus Schmitz was the epicenter of German pride during the event and the host of the block party. Vanessa Beahn, 30, the bar's director of events and marketing, said there were about 350 people inside and up to 2,000 on the street, with several food trucks and a beer truck pumping out cups of Warsteiner.

Beahn said the bar hadn't been open long enough to host such a big event during the last World Cup, but it hopes to make the party - and the German win - a tradition.

Many said the throng was proof enough that soccer's popularity is growing in the United States.

"We didn't have crowds like this out watching games four years ago," said Scott Manalo, 25, of Old City, sporting a Barcelona jersey. "It's exciting to see it."

On the corner of South Street and 8th, though, "Izzy" from South Philly sat on a brick step beyond the party, holding the new sneakers he'd just bought, oblivious to the World Cup.

"I don't even know who's playing," the 21-year-old said. "It looks like a good time."


On Twitter: @JasonNark

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