a_soccer_ball.pngBay Area soccer fans braved wind, fog and mist today in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza to watch the women’s World Cup semifinals.

About 100 people had gathered in front of City Hall for the 9 a.m. start of the USA vs. France game this morning, setting up lawn chairs and blankets. The U.S. triumphed, beating France 3-1 to advance to the final on Sunday.

Later today, the semifinal game between Sweden and Japan will be shown, and there will be another viewing on Sunday for the final.

Many viewers said they planned to stay for both games today.

“We were here last year at the World Cup,” said Ronan Reynolds, a lifelong soccer fan who was born in Ireland but has lived in the US for 20 years. “I grew up with it, and I’ve played it the last couple years.”

Sony Hussein, an immigrant from Fiji Islands, said he planned to watch the first game but wasn’t sure about the second. “I’ve been watching soccer for a long time, been playing soccer too. I love soccer,” he said.

Sam and Mariela Saravia, from South San Francisco, sat on lawn chairs and held an umbrella over their heads as they sipped coffee.

“We rearranged our entire schedule so we could be here today,” said Mariela Saravia, who was born in Venezuela but moved to San Francisco when she was 16.

“Yeah, we’re lifelong fans,” her Guatamalan-born husband said.

They predicted that the US would prevail today.

Children kicked soccer balls around the plaza, playing with the equipment provided by event organizers. Inflatable castles and slides and face-painting were also available, and food carts lined the plaza serving pretzels, coffee and sandwiches.

The viewing was hosted by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.

Jens-Peter Jungclaussen, who said he helped organize today’s event, said he expected a good turnout despite the discouraging weather.

Jungcluassen said he first organized a World Cup viewing in Dolores Park in 2006 on his own, and had difficulty finding sponsors. He said he put $16,000 on his credit card to pay for that event, which he said was attended by 10,000 people.

Jungclaussen, who was born in Germany but has lived in the U.S. for the past nine years, said he figured that if he couldn’t watch the game in his home country he might as well organize a viewing.

“If I can’t go back to Germany to see the final, I’ll just put a big screen in the park,” he said.

Following the success of Jungclaussen’s first event, he began working with parks and recreation on the Civic Center events.

The game between Sweden and Japan was scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. The winners of today’s game will face off in the finals at 11:45 a.m. Sunday.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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