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Philly-area soccer fans drink deeply of World Cup excitement

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All across the Delaware Valley, soccer fans are gearing up for the monthlong tournament that gives 32 teams from across the globe the chance to take home what many consider the most coveted piece of championship hardware out there — the Jules Rimet.

Julian Brown knows his love of soccer makes him a strange bird in the U.S.

He doesn’t care. To him, it’s the best sport around.

“It’s so boring to watch touchdown after touchdown, home run after home run,” says Brown. “It’s so hard to win a soccer game.”

And so, the Narberth resident absolutely can’t wait for the FIFA World Cup to get under way in Brazil Thursday.

He’s not the only one.

All across the Delaware Valley, soccer fans — both rabid and casual — are gearing up for the monthlong tournament that gives 32 teams from across the globe the chance to take home what many consider the most coveted piece of championship hardware out there — the Jules Rimet.

Even the Super Bowl’s Lombardi trophy doesn’t compare.

“The World Cup, for us, is like the Super Bowl times 60,” says Robin Hernandez, one of thousands in the city who will be cheering for Mexico.

She feels bad for those who happen to be at the same bar or restaurant as she is when “El Tri” is playing — sort of.

“We’re screaming and jumping and cursing and food is flying and everybody is into it, standing up and cheering and it’s like we’re there on the sidelines,” says Hernandez, who lives in Northeast Philly.

Center City resident Lucas Martinez can relate.

The normally mild-mannered law professor becomes a different person when the Colombian national team competes.

“I said to my wife, when Colombia is playing the World Cup, please don’t let me have a kid on my hands because I might just throw him away because I’m going to be shouting, I’m going to be mad, I’m going to be really hyped,” said Martinez, who moved to the U.S. four years ago.

The young father will also shed some very happy tears.

Four World Cups have come and gone since the Colombian team last competed — a bruising wait for a country with such a rich national soccer tradition.

“I had to wait 16 years for us to qualify again…and even if I have to wait another 16 years, I will wait them gladly because this sensation, this feeling I have is amazing,” says Martinez.

Fans of perennial qualifiers, though, are just as thrilled that the big tournament is just days away.

Massimo Musumeci grew up in Rome and now calls Elkins Park home.

Like most Romans, the city’s elite club team will always be No. 1 in his heart.

Francesco Totti, Roma’s captain, is a “god on earth.”

Still, watching Italy’s national team runs a very close second.

“It’s like graduation for someone going to college,” says Musumeci. “It’s the ultimate celebration of what your life rotates around.”

Double the teams, double the pride

For Kevin Kim, president of the Korean American Sports Association, the World Cup is about embracing national pride and the unifying power of sport.

In his case, it’s a dual pride. The Radnor resident roots for South Korea and the U.S. both.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We all talk about diversity and being a global person and everyone being intertwined, taking a village to raise a child and all of that,” says Kim. “Not everyone feels that way, but some of us do feel that way when it comes to rooting for the American team as well as the Korean team. And when all of us can be at that level, from that perspective, I think the world would be better.”

Of all the teams in the competition, it’s hard to say which fan base most wants a World Cup title. For any one of them, it would be a slice of nirvana.

Brazilians, though, could have a slight edge — home soil and all.

Vinicius Morais thinks winning it all is a foregone conclusion.

“We’re going to win the World Cup,” says Morais.

Either way, the tournament will provide him with a big win: keeping him connected to his home country and his family in Sao Paulo.

“Every soccer game, it brings me back to when I was a soccer player and I feel like I’m in Brazil. Every time I watch a game, I miss home less,” he says.

The opening match is Thursday at 4 p.m. Brazil will take on Croatia during the only game of the day.

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