Between the countless flags and jerseys, the daily honking of horns and blowing of trumpets, all it takes is a brief walk downtown to notice World Cup fever has hit the streets of Port Chester.
The tournament, which began June 11 and July 11, has drawn interest across the United States, bringing together fans of all backgrounds and levels of investment — from the die-hard soccer fans to those just rooting for their favorite country.
One thing all Port Chester residents can get behind is the selection of striker Edson Buddle to the United States national team, despite the team's loss to Ghana. Buddle, a New Rochelle native, attended Port Chester High School for a number of years before embarking on an overly successful career in Major League Soccer with teams like the Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy.
Buddle's selection to represent the United States in South Africa this summer has only intensified the interest of Port Chester residents in the 2010 World Cup, to the benefit of local night spots and eateries, which have seen crowds swell.
"It's definitely good for business," said Brian Beadle, manager and bartender at local Irish restaurant and bar Davy Byrnes. "Especially with Edson on the U.S. team, more people are following than they usually would. It brings something extra that wouldn't be there otherwise."
Clothing stores have also enjoyed a boost in sales, as local soccer fans seek to show their national pride in any way they can. For many of them, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world.
"As a Brazilian, I tell people here, every Brazilian game in the World Cup is the same as the Super Bowl for Americans," said Julio Begossi, owner of Fera Brasil in downtown Port Chester. "Whatever is in yellow or green they buy. People are looking for flags, jerseys, flip-flops, earrings, baby clothes, absolutely everything. The World Cup is just one more reason to party."
Party is just what Port Chester residents have done since the tournament's start, as American, Mexican, Brazilian, and Argentinean fans among others have taken turns packing local bars and restaurants to watch their favorite teams. Competition between fans has been lively but respectful, owners say, with more emphasis on face-painting and flag waving than trash-talking.
"It's all good fun," said Buffalo Wild Wings manager Joel Braverman. "It's a lot of friendly yelling, almost like being at a real soccer match. It's just a lot of happy people."
For one fan, this summer's World Cup has unexpectedly given him some of the best sporting memories of his life, as well as opened his eyes to what he believes is an event and sport too often overlooked in the United States.
"It's the world sport," said Kevin LaMothe, who described himself as more of a fan of America than of soccer. "It's a sport every single country and continent in the world plays. That last minute goal against Algeria to clinch the group was one of the most amazing sports moments of my life. And I've been to playoff baseball and basketball games. There's nothing like seeing eighty people chant U-S-A over and over again."
That's not to say the World Cup has been a smooth ride for all involved. With the United States and Mexico falling victim to clear refereeing mistakes, fans have engaged in spirited discussions on instant replay — or the lack of it in World Cup games. Not surprisingly, fans of teams that have been burned are among the most vocal supporters of bringing instant replay to the tournament.
"I would like to see it installed," said American soccer fan Todd Wiener. "I think it's inevitable. If they want to keep the big TV audiences interested, they have to account for the fact that on television we can see the game even better than if we we're in the stadium."
Mexican soccer fan Edwin Ortiz agreed, doing his best to hide his frustration and disappointment after Mexico's first round exit Sunday afternoon.
"That's what I would like to see, at least in the big games," Ortiz said about instant-replay. "We're sad right now because our team lost, but it'll pass."
With a little over two weeks and a number of crucial and exciting matchups left in the 2010 World Cup, Port Chester soccer fans will be tuned in till the very end, anxiously watching as hearts are broken and dreams come true.