About the Author: Sharon Hudson-Dean serves as the press attache at U.S. Embassy Pretoria.
A fun thing about being an American soccer fan is that there's no real pressure to be hard core. American soccer is nice. It's girls in pigtails and handsome college boys who play hard at a clean sport. Our national teams' fan clubs (Sam's Army, the American Outlaws, and the U.S. Soccer Supporters club) are passionate and supportive without being over the top. Not like the English -- for them, soccer is nothing if not a hard core sport.
My counterpart at the British High Commission arrived a year ago and focused like a laser beam on the World Cup. He blogs about soccer for the U.K. Foreign Office and arranged for a local cooking school to run a World Cup English pie competition among its students. While I have been fascinated with his deep commitment to the sport as part of his professional duties, I had to step it up myself when our team was picked to play England for our first game on June 12.
We've got some real history here between our teams, as well as our nations. The only time our teams have met in a World Cup was in 1950 in Brazil, and we won 1-0. Eight of our players play professionally in England, so they know the British style of hard, fast "footie."
To make this an on-the-ground blood and guts rivalry, the British High Commission challenged our embassy to a series of competitions from March until now. We agreed to cricket in return for softball, and threw in tennis, golf, and a quiz night. After winning softball and tennis, and losing the rest (though not by much), it all came down to a final game of soccer to decide the winner of the rather cheap-looking Fries and Pies Trophy on May 28.
The turnout was fantastic, from the ambassador to our switchboard operator. And our team was equally and inspiringly diverse -- a South African financial analyst from USAID, the Ivorian husband of a political officer, and a CDC epidemiologist among others. Like the U.S. national squad with our players of African, Hispanic, Haitian and other origins, the U.S. Embassy team was representative of the diversity of our Mission here.
And they did us proud. Cheered on by very enthusiastic colleagues blowing vuvuzelas with long waving U.S. flags, we beat the Brits in a sudden death penalty shootout.
It was a beautiful moment for our team of Pretoria amateurs, and we hope it will be repeated by the U.S. Men's National Team in front of a worldwide audience of hundreds of millions on June 12 in Rustenberg. Very close to Sun City, the resort blacklisted by all those '80s anti-apartheid artists, this is for many people the game of the first round. Like our embassy team, our boys are ready to take it from the "Red Coats." I'll be there, mixing it up (figuratively) with the Bafokeng King, Vice President Biden, a lot of English and a respectable number of Americans, and a lot of ordinary South Africans. We'll try to teach them an old song, "Yankee Doodle do or die, Yankee Doodle Dandy, all the goals will be so smart, and sweet as sugar candy."To view photos from the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, click here.Follow the U.S. Embassy Pretoria on Facebook and Twitter.For information on the World Cup in South Africa, visit the U.S. Mission's website.To view Sharon Hudson-Dean's previous entry, click Nine Days Until Kickoff. To view Sharon Hudson-Dean's next entry, click Ambassador Gips: "South Africa's Moment to Shine."