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December 21, 2014

Fans’ plans for World Cup vary during business hours

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Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 5:18 pm | Updated: 3:20 pm, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

Joe Jankoski would like nothing better than to watch the World Cup match between the U.S. and Germany Thursday (June 26).

An avid soccer fan and member of the American Outlaws, an unofficial supporters’ group for the U.S. men's national soccer team, Jankoski will instead be at Samford University at 11 a.m., the match’s air time, for a work-related class that was scheduled before the World Cup began.

“That’s the worst, most unfortunate time ever that could possibly happen,” said Jankoski, who lives in Anniston. “If I didn’t have work, I would be at the Peerless, trying to watch the match.”

Instead, Jankoski will have his smartphone in hand, ready for any updates that may come his way throughout the day. Depending on whether the U.S. wins, he may tape the match and watch it later. It is, after all, a match of paramount importance, one that could see the U.S. team advance or be eliminated.

Like Jankoski, many fans are struggling to find a way to watch Thursday's match, airing as it does in the middle of what for most Americans is a work day. Interest in the World Cup has soared this year, with record audiences for the United States’ first two matches.

According to the Nielsen ratings service, 11.1 million people tuned in June 16 to watch the U.S. take down Ghana 2-1 in the opening round, making it the most-viewed and highest-rated men’s soccer match ever aired on ESPN or ESPN2, at the time. Then, on Sunday, 18.2 million people tuned in to watch the U.S. and Portugal fight to a thrilling — if disappointing — 2-2 tie. That match, which also had 6.5 million viewers on Univision — became the most-watched broadcast of any World Cup match in American history, beating out the nearly 18 million who watched the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final between the U.S. and China.

Chris Wright, a disc jockey at 105.9 FM in Gadsden, said he’ll be watching the game in Anniston with his father and a fan of Germany after he completes his morning show at 9 a.m. For Wright, the match has even more importance than simply allowing the U.S. to advance.

“We’ve got to win this game. I’ve got a dinner riding on this game,” Wright said, describing a bet with his German friend. “If the U.S. wins, he’s got to make me a traditional German dinner, and if Germany wins, I’ve got to buy him McDonalds.”

Neil Macdonald, Jacksonville State University’s women’s soccer coach, said he expects both teams to play conservatively. Macdonald, who will watch the game at home with his family, said he expects the U.S. and Germany to have a good match.

“Many people think of Germany as one of the favorites to win the cup,” Macdonald said. “It’s a tough match for the U.S., but they have a tremendous team spirit.”

Throughout Calhoun County, restaurants and bars Wednesday were making preparations for a potential Thursday lunch rush for people who want to catch at least a glimpse of the match.

Kristy Farmer, co-owner and general manager of the Peerless Saloon and Grille, hopes to catch some of that team spirit on Thursday: the Peerless will be decorated with American flags, banners and party favors.

She expects a big turnout after hosting upward of 35 people for the Portugal match, and has planned food and drink specials.

At Joe Beer Handcrafted Ales in Jacksonville, owner Joe Donahue plans to open at 11 a.m., well before the brewery’s usual opening time at 4 p.m. And at Mellow Mushroom in Oxford, general manager Terry Phillis Sr. also plans food and drink specials, along with U.S.-themed bracelets for fans.

Yet despite all the preparations restaurants are putting in for the match, none know if they’ll have as high a turnout as they did in previous matches.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Phillis said. “People with flexible schedules may be able to take a half day and come in. Monday, it was a hoot. Everybody was hooting and hollering. It turned out pretty good.”

Still, Phillis said he has a suspicion people will find a way to watch the match.

“I’ve already to talked to three or four people talking about getting off work Thursday,” Phillis said. “I wonder how many people are going to call in sick.”

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