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Norfolk's US fans gear up for big day

PUBLISHED: 14:00 12 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:14 01 July 2010

Aidan O'Shea, an American student in Norwich

Aidan O'Shea, an American student in Norwich

It may be the most popular sport in the world but “soccer” cannot even get close to the levels of support for other sports in the USA.

It may be the most popular sport in the world but “soccer” cannot even get close to the levels of support for other sports in the USA.

However, that has not stopped the American contingent in the region getting excited for the World Cup - and even tipping the “sleeping giant” to surpass expectations.

Texan Chris Bell, 31, forecaster with Norwich-based Weatherquest, had no time for “soccer” until his move to Norfolk six years ago.

He said: “I am a big sports fan in general but I am a typical American in terms of what sports I watch and soccer has never been very high on my list.

“However, I will be watching the World Cup and I think that has a lot to do with the fact I am living here because if I was still living in America I wouldn't pay too much attention to it.”

Mr Bell thinks his fellow countrymen stand a good chance against the Three Lions but will come unstuck in the second round.

He continued: “I think we have got a great shout for a draw. England should really win but with question marks over injuries to key players and them not playing their best football this is a great opportunity.

“I reckon we will finish second in the group and then face Germany in the next round, which will be the end of the World Cup for us.”

Tech Sergeant Eduard Dedousis, from RAF Mildenhall, a US air force base in Suffolk, is also hoping for a positive American result.

He said: “I think the USA's chances are significantly better than everyone seems to think.

“US soccer has made leaps and bounds forward in the last decade and has benefited from more and more American players getting the nod to play in Europe's best leagues like the Premier League.

“If they play as a collective, defend well, and stay disciplined to the final whistle I think the US will be able to battle to at least a draw and be completely satisfied.”

Lieuteant Philip Rosen, also from the USAF base, added: “I am hoping for a win for the USA but I really just want to see a great game to start both teams run for the cup.”

Aidan O'Shea, student at the University of East Anglia, is flying back to Baltimore today (Friday, June 11) and will be watching the game with his family and friends.

“From what I've heard, there has been a really big push in the US about the World Cup so maybe more Americans than ever before will be tuning in,” the 20-year-old said.

“I think the game against England will be good but we will lose because we are not consistent and are prone to make little mistakes.

“They will hang on with England for a while because there is no pressure on them to win but I can see the score being 2 - 0 or even 3 - 1 to England.

“From there, it will be nice if we qualify for the knock out stages but I am not expecting us to get to the semi finals.”

Jim West, manager at Yarmouth's Lichfield Community Centre, cannot wait to watch the game between his country of birth and the country he has lived in for the past 40 years.

He said: “I will be glued to the television screen because it is a big game. History says they have a good chance because they have beaten England before.

“The motivation will be there against England and if they play the way they should I think it will be a tight game. I still feel England will win but on the day anyone can make a mistake so you never know.”

The 71-year-old also said the US is a “sleeping giant” in the football world, which could wake up at any time.

They may have professed their undying love for one another yesterday but today a newly-married couple will be putting their wedding vows to the test as England take on USA.

Rob Pearson, 33, yesterday married his American sweetheart Betsy at the Broads House Hotel in Wroxham and will today be hosting a World Cup themed party as their two home nations go head-to-head in England's first match of the campaign.

The pair met while Mr Pearson was on a six-month secondment in New York more than five years ago.

They moved to Australia together for three years and travelled around the world for nine months before they settled in the UK.

The couple got engaged last November and planned their wedding to coincide with this evening's England v USA match.

But football mad Mr Pearson said the celebrations will soon come to an end if the result does not go England's way.

The corporate banker, who now lives in London but grew up in Weston Longville, near Ringland, said: “I'm very confident England will win and have high hopes that we will win the World Cup.

“If England don't win against USA, I'll be distraught and the party will come to an immediate end!”

Yesterday's wedding was a close family affair with the bride's mum, dad, step-dad and brother over from America and the groom's mum, aunt, brothers and sisters plus nieces and nephews.

The World Cup party, complete with American and English themed napkins, cups and paper plates, is being held at the Old Rectory in Weston Longville, the family home where Mr Pearson grew up and which is now owned by his sister Anna Stevenson.

After this weekend, the happy couple plan to go to Barcelona with the bride's family.

Mrs Pearson, 30, nee Baugh, who works for the Discovery Channel and is from North Carolina, said: “We planned bits and pieces of the wedding around the World Cup. The party should be good fun. My brother is a sports fan and Rob gets into the England sports a lot so I think there will be a bit of rivalry.

“Rob will be very disappointed if England lose. I think my brother and step-dad will gloat a bit. I will try to be nice.”

For the next few weeks Evening News reporter Peter Walsh will be World Cup Walshy in a bid to uncover Norwich-related stories about the feast of football that is the World Cup.

Are you travelling out to South Africa to cheer on Fabio Capello's team, or are you organising an event in Norwich to celebrate the world's greatest footballing tournament?

If so, or if you have pictures from South Africa, or any other World Cup themed events, then get in touch with World Cup Walshy by calling 01603 772443 or emailing peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Mexicans living in Norwich have found a home from home in the centre of the city - and have moved in for the duration of the World Cup.

There may be less than 100 Mexicans in Norwich but those that are here make a quite a lot of noise when they're cheering on their side.

About 40 Mexicans including families packed into the Castle Gates pub in Timberhill yesterday to watch their team on the pub's big screen playing hosts South Africa in the first match of the tournament.

Part of the attraction of the venue is the pub's friendly landlord Graham Patching who has adorned the inside of the pub with various flags of the teams taking part in the World Cup.

Another draw of the watering hole is the Abbot Ale on draught, which Mr Patching assured me was very popular with Mexican punters.

Prominent amongst the flags on show at the pub is the Mexican and fan Juancho Barron, from Heigham Road, said The Castle Gates was a home from home.

Mr Barron, a development studies student at the UEA, said: “Most of us study at the UEA. I love football and for the last World Cup I went first to the Murderers but it was too crowded. I came across the street and have been coming to the Castle Gates ever since. I love this place.

“It's a very friendly environment and a home from home for us. Many international people come here and it's a very tolerant place. I will watch all the Mexican matches in here. It's a place where we can all meet up, so it' s like a club in a way.”

Fellow UEA student Rafael Calderon, from Dereham Road, Norwich, said it was a “very friendly pub that was open to families”.

“I think being such a friendly environment and being open to families is the important point,” he said. “There are quite a lot of Mexicans at the UEA and most of them will be coming here to watch the matches.”

Both men are optimistic about Mexico's chances in the World Cup, although the team has been quoted at 66-1 to win the tournament by bookmakers.

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