While the Netherlands and Mexico battled in their World Cup game across multiple television screens Sunday afternoon, a Pluckers Wing Bar employee — and Mexico soccer fan — stood aghast, mouthing “NOO” at the screen. The Netherlands’ soccer team had just scored a goal in the 88th minute, tying the game.
Local sports bars have seen a steady stream of business because of this year’s exciting World Cup, according to local bar owners, and Ziam Powell, co-owner of newly opened Intern’l Soccer Sports Bar, thinks there are enough dedicated fans in the area who will watch regular season games.
“For me, I’ve been playing soccer all my life ... (the love of the sport is) within the soul, it’s within the spirit. Just growing up in Jamaica, days that we were hungry and playing soccer, you forgot that you were hungry,” Powell said, explaining that he’s met several adult fans who share his love of the sport while watching his young daughter play.
Powell recently opened Intern’l Soccer Sports Bar with friend Rohan Swaby to coincide with the June 12 World Cup.
Powell, who moved from soccer-loving Jamaica when he was 18, said he hopes to promote a soccer culture in the area by providing a place to watch games, supporting local teams and providing a place where players can get delicious Caribbean food to eat after games.
“(Residents who come in the bar) are very curious and very interested, and want to know what’s really going on,” Powell said, explaining the curiosity of some of the newer soccer fans he’s seen recently.
Lisa Fry, a manager at Pluckers in Killeen, said while soccer crowds still do not rival those seen at basketball or football games, because of Killeen’s unique demographic, the city probably touts more soccer fans than other places.
“Since we are a military town, we get different crowds for games that you might not expect... since people are from different parts of the country,” Fry said, saying the international nature of the military brought in crowds for other countries’ games, like Brazil, Chile or Mexico.
While the U.S. games pull in a lot of large crowds, she said, the importance of the games — such as quarterfinals or finals — also pull in crowds, just like any other sport.
“I worked a U.S.A. game ... where we played Ghana ... and when U.S.A. scored I felt like the building was shaking, everyone was chanting U.S.A. and stomping together,” she said.
The next “big” World Cup game is Tuesday when the U.S. plays Belgium at 3 p.m.