Mike D’Amato’s World Cup Diary

By - Jun 12th, 2010 12:04 pm
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Mike D’Amato, best known in these parts as a former Milwaukee alderman, is a life-long soccer player and buff and a teammate of mine in the indoor over-40 league at Uihlein Soccer Park. When I heard that Mike will travel to South Africa for part of the World Cup, I asked him to become TCD’s Cup Correspondent.

Mike will report from Africa while he’s there and from Milwaukee bars when he’s home throughout the tournament. On the day that the U.S. plays the England in the opening round, Mike sets the stage. —Tom Strini

The World Cup clock has counted down to 0.00. Let the games be begin!

Along with the games will come the cheering, the crying, the agony and the ecstasy — and, of course, tournament surprises and countless predictions of winners. Billions around the world will pull for flag and country.

In Milwaukee, a sizable contingent will view the games and enjoy the festivities. I watched my first World Cup game, the final between Argentina and the Netherlands, in 1978. Since then, a more and more in our community have embraced soccer in general and the Cup in particular.

Venues for watching the game are plentiful. Discussion of pools and brackets is rising to  March Madness level. We once were limited to the Italian Community Center and the Bavarian Inn. Now, Soccer Madness can be had at the Transfer Cafe, The Nomad, Highbury, La Mexicana and more. (Add your favorite in the Comment sections, below.)

Soccer has been more than a game for my brothers, Frank and Dominic, and I. It became a way of life when our ages were in single digits. Like so many other sons of immigrant parents, soccer was in our blood when, in the U.S., it was some strange game you played in gym class. It was as obscure as cricket.

The game has prompted us to see the world. We’re heading to South Africa on June 21 to watch our third World cup together. Through July 4,  we will be “in country” to watch soccer and immerse ourselves in South African culture.

The Copa Mundial is so much more than what happens on a 120 x 90-yard pitch. It’s about meeting other cultures in an atmosphere both spirited and welcoming. Imagine the pageantry and passion of a major college football game and multiply it by 100 — three times a day for two weeks with the whole world watching.

Traveling with us to South Africa will be our friends Dave (it will be his seventh straight World Cup, since Mexico1986) and Abdul, with sons Yusuf, Ahmed and Adam. The eight of us will do our best to deliver reports from Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg and Cape Town on both soccer and the experience of South Africa. In the meantime, we’ll watch the first-round games in local venues and share our observations and opinions with the good readers of urbanmilwaukeedial.com.

First, let’s pick our winners.

First, the surprise team: In every recent World Cup a team that isn’t a traditional power that reached the semi-finals: Portugal in 2006, Turkey and South Korea in 2002, Croatia in 1998, Sweden and Bulgaria in 1994.

Our party chose five for 2010: Mexico (2 votes), South Africa (2), Cameroon, Serbia (2) and Greece. (Dave’s warped theory holds that Greece’s economic mess will inspire the team.)Those are our thoughts. Please do take a moment to share yours in the comment box below. Make you pick for the South African surprise.

I think the 2010 World Cup will turn the soccer world on its head. The first African tournament will introduce a new power structure in world soccer and change its geography. Starting now, the game will truly go global; a team from any continent might  lift the trophy in the end.

Remember this: in every World Cup since 1934, Brazil, Italy or Germany have been in the semi-finals. And except for 1978, one of those teams has been in the final. This year, I predict that not one of the “giant three” will make it beyond the quarter-final.

It’s a new day for World Cup soccer. Plenty reasons to watch

Categories: Sports, Uncategorized

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