If you're anything of a sports advocate, probably you know that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is just over a month away and being hosted in Brazil.
The soccer championship is the most watched sporting event in the world (although many might not think so). Every four years, people from all over the globe flock to the host city to support their nation and cheer the team that represents their roots.
I was never much of a soccer fan, and it took me quite a long time to give it a chance. I mean, it is the most popular sport in the world, so I had to be missing the boat on something, right?
Well … I was. And now, after just one short year, of taking a genuine interest, I wake up early nearly every weekend – or at least try to – to catch the televised matches of the English Premier League.
As I sit there with a cup of coffee, or maybe even a beer depending on the hour, cheering on Man United (sorry Liverpool), I look back and ask, “How could I have been so ignorant to such a great sport for so many years?”
Better late than never, I suppose. I’m just happy to finally embrace the game and get excited about watching a match, even if there’s still a lot for me to learn.
While we all have our own favorite sporting events, whether it is football, NASCAR, golf, baseball or even the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup is one of the very few major sports events that truly connects the world on a higher level.
And one place in our region that’s going to make this connection is ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
ArtsQuest, along with several partnerships and sponsors, is bringing the World Cup to Bethlehem … sort of.
The FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party, one of a select few outdoor viewing events in the nation officially approved by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, features 26 World Cup matches, including the United States vs. Ghana on June 16 and the U.S. vs. Portugal on June 22.
These matches are going to be screened on a 17-foot-high by 27-foot-wide outdoor LED screen on SteelStacks’ Air Products Town Square from June 12-16 and 19-22.
Both weekends will be packed with soccer programs, clinics, hands-on activities and special events appealing to soccer fans, players, coaches and families.
“Our goal with this SoccerFest and Viewing Party is to bring that international excitement and energy to the Lehigh Valley, while also engaging the region’s youth players, creating an atmosphere for thousands to come together for a celebration of the world’s game in a very unique setting,” said Curt Mosel, vice president of marketing and public relations for ArtsQuest.
Among the many activities are a youth soccer clinic presented by The Philadelphia Union on June 14 and an interactive kids’ fun zone featuring soccer skills activities, challenges and inflatables presented by Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association during the first weekend; and two youth soccer clinics for children with disabilities on June 20, presented by Good Shepherd Health & Rehabilitation Network and Lehigh Valley United.
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America is offering two “Reading the Game” diploma courses for coaches on June 14 and 21.
The second weekend of the SoccerFest coincides with “Sabor,” the popular free Latin festival at SteelStacks that last year attracted 10,000 visitors to enjoy live music, family and fun.
Throughout both weekends of the festival, guests are encouraged to donate new and gently used soccer equipment to the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Passback Program, which will distribute the equipment to children in underserved communities throughout the nation.
Other FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party activities include:
FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party match schedule:
Thursday, June 12:
Brazil vs. Croatia – 4 p.m.
Friday, June 13:
Mexico vs. Cameroon – noon
Spain vs. Netherlands – 3 p.m.
Chile vs. Australia – 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 14:
Colombia vs. Greece – noon
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica – 3 p.m.
England vs. Italy – 6 p.m.
Ivory Coast vs. Japan – 9 p.m.
Sunday, June 15:
Switzerland vs. Ecuador – noon
France vs. Honduras – 3 p.m.
Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina – 6 p.m.
Monday, June 16:
Germany vs. Portugal – noon
Iran vs. Nigeria – 3 p.m.
Ghana vs. United States – 6 p.m.
Thursday, June 19:
Colombia vs. Ivory Coast – noon
Uruguay vs. England – 3 p.m.
Japan vs. Greece – 6 p.m.
Friday, June 20:
Italy vs. Costa Rica – noon
Switzerland vs. France – 3 p.m.
Honduras vs. Ecuador – 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 21:
Argentina vs. Iran – noon
Germany vs. Ghana – 3 p.m.
Nigeria vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina – 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 22:
Belgium vs. Russia – noon
South Korea vs. Algeria – 3 p.m.
United States vs. Portugal – 6 p.m.
The festival is made possible through a partnership between Discover Lehigh Valley, The Philadelphia Union, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association, Lehigh Valley United, Lehigh Valley Youth Soccer League, PBS39, Spark and ArtsQuest.
For more information, visit www.lvsoccerfest.com.