American fans give up Thanksgiving to travel to World Cup
NEW YORK — It’s the biggest one-day weekend of the year for American athletes.
And most of them are heading to South Africa in hopes of reaching the Soccer World Cup final in Brazil.
“We wanted to be back for Thanksgiving, but now the traveling and the jet-lag and all that stuff are taking it away from us,” said Michael Owen, one of 15 members of the U.S. team that will compete in South Africa.
Most of the players are heading to Brazil for Friday, but at least three will depart on the team plane Sunday afternoon following the U.S. team’s pre-game ceremony.
It’s been a strange season for U.S. soccer. The Americans had a chance to win the World Cup and instead finished tied for sixth. Most of their games were on the road, and they lost twice to lowly teams in Group G. Their record in the tournament was 3-2-3, and their worst was against Portugal.
But this is how Americans typically feel over the holidays — a mix of excitement, sadness and exhaustion.
“It’s the World Cup,” said Owen, a member of U.S. goal-scoring leader Clint Mathis’ team. “We’re all so happy and excited for it, and then there’s all that waiting for our next game.”
At least a dozen Americans travel to South Africa each week, and many of them have their own special reason to be there.
For Owen, a part of it has to do with his daughter.
Lorri, Owen, his wife and his daughter had to leave home to make the trip to South Africa. It was their third wedding anniversary on December 29, and they had arranged to celebrate for the first time at the World Cup. But her visa expired, and they had to get it renewed.
It was a challenge, but when the U.S. team flew out to South Africa to prepare for their game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, they had a solution in store.
“It’s going to be another great celebration,” Lorri said. “She wanted to be there, and so I said we should do it, so we’re going to give a party for the United States and all the people here in South Africa so that we can send them all the best feelings.”
Owen’s wife and daughter arrived