wcrhodes.jpgFrom the first buzz of the vuvuzelas
to the final winning goal, South Africa became the center of the sporting world
for the month-long affair that was the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The 64 games, which kicked off on June 11
with a 1-1 tie between South Africa and Mexico and ended on July 11 when Spain
won the final match-up 1-0 against the Netherlands in overtime, attracted the
attention of everyone from the casual fan and the old
rock n’ roll star
to the diehard spectators and the betting animals.

Although the United States has a reputation
for being ignorant and apathetic when it comes to soccer, you wouldn’t have
known that if you were in San Francisco on any given gameday, as thousands
of people flocked to Civic Center Plaza
during the World Cup to watch the
festivities on two 13×18 projector screens. There were 17 total screenings
throughout the month, all of which additionally featured live music, food
vendors and booths from sponsors.

“It was a convergence of good ideas,” Phil Ginsberg, the general manager of the San Francisco Parks and Recreation
Department, tells the Appeal. “This is something I’d wanted to do from my first day on the job.
Soccer touches my life for a number of reasons; I used to play and my kids
play, and I manage a department with a number of soccer fields. This is the greatest
international sports event in the greatest international city, and we knew it
was going to be successful.”

The event stemmed from a 2006
Dolores Park screening of the World Cup finals game
that was the brainchild
of Teacherbus CEO Jens-Peter
Jungclaussen, who put on the event somewhat spontaneously and attracted
thousands of spectators without an official ad campaign. He funded the $17,000
cost of the free screening with the help of the German Chamber of Commerce in
San Francisco and public donations.

Four years later, the Parks and Rec
Department hopped on board and turned Jungclaussen’s original idea into a
one-month festival that attracted between 35,000 to 40,000 people and
raised over $100,000 through the help of companies such as Verizon and Visa and
local sports teams like the San Jose
(yes, there is a professional soccer team in the Bay Area,
sports fans).

“It was wildly successful,” Ginsberg said. “It
was great to have people congregate in Civic Center Plaza. Everyone who came
out was extremely joyous [and] we had no problems.”

Futbol fanatics also packed into local bars
and restaurants for the games, many of which made special concessions to
attract more people looking to watch the World Cup into their businesses.

Kezar Pub, the popular Irish bar on
Stanyan Street in San Francisco, showcased every match, including the ones
which started at 4:30 in the morning. though not legally allowed
to serve food and drinks that early. The pub also gave away Budweiser and
Guinness pint glasses emblazoned with the World Cup logo and passed out free
shots of Irish whiskey for every goal scored against the French team, which
beat Ireland on a controversial play in a World Cup qualifying game last fall

“For a whole month a lot of the games were on at 4:30, 7 and
11:30 [in the morning], so by lunch we nearly had a whole day behind us because
we’d been open since 4:30,” said Neil Holbrook, manager of Kezar Pub. “It was
like every day was a whole extra shift, [and] we nearly doubled what we
normally would.”

But even more than the added revenue,
Holbrook emphasized the energetic and diverse atmosphere was the best part of
the past month of games.

“Being here was second only to being at the
game itself,” Holbrook said. “It’s pretty cool living in San Francisco because
it’s a big melting pot of people from everywhere… It was great seeing people
from different countries all coming together.”

Meanwhile, Ginsberg was adamant about having a similar series of public
screenings in San Francisco for the World Cup’s return in 2014 and reinforcing
the unifying sentiments of the games.

“It was a great event and clearly our
experience this year showed San Francisco’s passion and love of sports and for
congregating with the community for something joyous,” Ginsberg said. “I’d
definitely want to do it again.

Photo: Steve Rhodes

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