World Cup fans are everywhere, even in DickinsonThough they battle playful criticism, area has some die-hard Cup fans
Jeremy Schmitt had to force himself into his bed Thursday night. The 20-year-old college soccer player from Dickinson wanted to watch every bit of ESPN’s World Cup coverage that he could.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Jeremy Schmitt had to force himself into his bed Thursday night.
The 20-year-old college soccer player from Dickinson wanted to watch every bit of ESPN’s World Cup coverage that he could. But, he also wanted to get up early enough so he wouldn’t miss the opening game between host South Africa and Mexico that started around 7:30 a.m.
“I was up until midnight and then I didn’t want to go to bed,” Schmitt said. “I stayed up quite a bit watching highlights of what’s going to happen. I woke up at 6 o’clock to make sure I was going to be awake to see it.”
Across the planet, the World Cup brings cities and even countries to a standstill when their teams play.
This afternoon, when the United States takes on England in its World Cup opener, the game likely won’t drive citizens of southwest North Dakota to their TVs.
But, that doesn’t mean a handful of die-hard soccer fans won’t be glued to the game, hoping their countrymen pull off the upset.
While he plans to watch as many games as he can, die-hard fans like Schmitt, who’ll be a sophomore on Jamestown College’s men’s soccer team next fall, still will have to put up with loving a sport that — at least in non-soccer playing areas like southwest North Dakota — that carries quite a stigma among general sports fans.
“Most of my friends, they understand I really enjoy it, but a lot of other people just think it’s some kind of voodoo or something,” Schmitt said with a laugh.
As a teenager, Schmitt had to travel to Bismarck in the summer to play on a club team and was eventually noticed by Jamestown College coaches when he played in an indoor soccer league.
In southwest North Dakota, most children’s soccer-playing days end before they reach junior high. There are no sanctioned junior high or high school teams, and intramural soccer is the only kind played at Dickinson State.
Austin Mack, a 16-year-old sophomore at Dickinson High, plays on the Dakota United under-19 team out of Bismarck. He’ll play for Bismarck Century’s varsity team in the fall and does what he can to organize pick-up soccer games on fields around Dickinson.
He takes his fare share of razzing from friends too.
“A lot of my baseball friends put it down all the time,” said Mack, who has aspirations of playing college soccer. “I think just because it’s not here, they don’t understand it.”
That’s the same sentiment many of DSU’s international students encounter.
Ulsbold Enkhbold, a 21-year-old DSU student from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, grew up in a country that has never qualified for the World Cup. Yet, he said watching games there is a community event.
“Back home, there’d be places set up designated especially for this purpose (watching the World Cup),” Enkhbold said. “They set up tents in free spaces.”
Still, Enkhbold said having access to every game in high-definition TV in the U.S. is nice. Enkhbold woke up early Friday morning to watch South Africa and Mexico battle to a 1-1 draw with a group of friends.
“There isn’t really much hype going on around here, but we’re planning to get together starting (Friday) and have at it,” Enkhbold said.
Matt Quintus, a Killdeer native and a former DSU football player, said he always liked soccer. However, his feelings toward the game only grew after he purchased the FIFA ’09 video game for his PlayStation last year.
Now he is a supporter of English Premier League club Manchester United, perhaps the most popular team of any sport in the world, and listens to a daily podcast about soccer.
But, he won’t be able to watch the U.S.-England game because of a prior commitment. Quintus isn’t taking any chances either. Not only is he recording the game at home, he’s going to make sure no one tells him the score.
“I’ll make sure the phone is off, make sure no one is texting me the score and I’ll go home and watch it and see how it turns out,” Quintus said.