Lawmakers share World Cup enthusiasm

Soccer doesn’t have the popularity in the U.S. that it enjoys in the rest of the world, but lawmakers still appear to have World Cup fever.

Republicans and Democrats alike say they plan to watch the U.S. take on England Saturday on the second-day of the month-long event. The U.S. will be huge underdogs to the English, one of the favorites to win the most popular sporting event in the world, when they take the field on Saturday in front of an audience that will include Vice President Joe Biden.

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Biden watched Friday's opening game, a 1-1 tie between host South Africa and Mexico, from a box in the Soweto stadium shared with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is traveling back to North Dakota on Saturday, but hopes to catch as much of the game as possible.

“It's going to be exciting,” said Dorgan, who proved himself a bit of a soccer historian by talking about the “Miracle on Grass” of 1950, when the U.S. defeated England, which thinks of itself as the country where the sport originated.

Dorgan thinks Landon Donovan and company have a better shot at beating the English in South Africa.

“Our kids grew up playing soccer, so we're more acquainted with it now - not so 60 years ago,” Dorgan said.

Congress has had its share of former athletes. Former Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler is a Democrat representing North Carolina in the House, and Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) is a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) is a former soccer player for Carleton College in Minnesota, who despite his busy schedule would like to watch some World Cup matches with his constituents.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) will be watching the U.S.-England game from his home in New Hampshire. “I love soccer,” said Gregg, whose favorite player, striker Charlie Davis, was injured in a car accident last fall.



Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) remembers seeing the construction of South African’s new soccer stadiums from his airplane window during a visit to the country last year. “I’m a big soccer fan and can’t wait,” he said of the World Cup.


Still, it doesn’t appear soccer is in any danger of surpassing the popularity of more traditional U.S. sporting pastimes.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) claims that he has sacrificed a lot of sleep from following the World Cup over the years, but balked when asked if he preferred international football over American football.

“Heavens no! I’m from Texas,” he said.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) was more excited to talk about hockey on Thursday after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

“Why aren't you writing your story on that?” he said.