Listen: Soccer fans of the north, World Cup watching in Duluth draws cheers

MPR’s Dan Kraker visits Dubh Linn's, an Irish pub in downtown Duluth, to talk with soccer fans watching the World Cup. There is a growing passion for football in northern Minnesota.


2022 MBJA Eric Sevareid Award, first place in Sports Reporting - Large Market Radio category


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SPEAKER: Earlier this afternoon at the World Cup in Qatar, the US beat Iran 1-0. The win means the US team now moves on to the round of 16. It ended up being a nail biter of a game, and our Dan Crocker volunteered, some would say selflessly, to watch the game at a bar in Duluth crammed full of soccer fans.

DAN CROCKER: A tough assignment, I know. I went to Dublin's, an Irish pub in downtown Duluth, where I met Martyn Greenan decked out in a US Jersey. He's from Scotland, but he's lived in Duluth for the past 13 years. And as the match began, like a lot of fans at the bar, he was nervous.

MARTYN GREENAN: I think I've been here for so long that they're my adopted nation now. And the fact that Scotland hasn't been at the World Cup since 1998, it does help to have another team to cheer on.

DAN CROCKER: The US dominated early in the game but couldn't capitalize on several chances to score. Meanwhile, at the same time, England was taking on Wales. John Richardson, who's from England, watched the England game on his phone while also watching the US play on the big screen.

JOHN RICHARDSON: My two boys here have a dentist appointment this afternoon.

DAN CROCKER: Wait, do they really?

JOHN RICHARDSON: [LAUGHS] Don't tell her mom.

DAN CROCKER: I assured him I wouldn't.

JOHN RICHARDSON: It's great to experience what I experienced as a kid watching the world cup, you know. And I pick my boys up from school, and they're so excited. And, you know, they feel slightly rebellious that they're going to go watch the game. They're missing an hour of school, but it's a lifetime memory.

DAN CROCKER: Richardson moved to Minnesota 25 years ago. Back then, he recalls, soccer was very much a niche sport in the US. It was hard to find a place to watch a game. Now he looks around the crowded pub, and he says it looks just like it would back in England for a big game.

JOHN RICHARDSON: You know, the days of the USA not being a soccer niche, I think, are kind of over really. I mean, I think, we're here and in four years' time, we've got the World Cup here again. So I think it's just going to grow and grow.

DAN CROCKER: Tom Albright is one of those Americans who's become hooked on soccer over the past 25 years. The Duluth school teacher fell in love with the game watching the US play Iran back at the 1998 World Cup.

TOM ALBRIGHT: You know, it's the intensity. And I think part of the beauty of the sport is you never know when that moment might come. That moment could come, you know, in the 95th minute like we saw in 2010 against Algeria, or it could come in the first minute. You know, you never know when that moment will arrive.

DAN CROCKER: In this game, that moment arrived in the 38th minute when US star Christian Pulisic scored just before crashing into the Iranian goalkeeper.


KANDI GEARY: Dublin's Irish Pub is definitely the place to be in the upper Midwest for watching football. It's so fun to be down here and be with other people that really, truly are passionate about the game like I am.

DAN CROCKER: Kandi Geary is a regular watching soccer or football games here. She fell in love with the sport when her kids started playing youth soccer in Duluth back when she says they had to fight the American Football team to share the field. She also remembers having to beg bar owners in town to show soccer games.

KANDI GEARY: Initially, it started being fans would start to come together for US games. But now you'll find a crowd like this for any World Cup game.

DAN CROCKER: Mike Maxim, the owner of Dublin, says they started showing soccer games when they opened in 2006. He says he's seen the passion for the sport grow since then.

MIKE MAXIM: There has always been a kind of a tight knit community of soccer fans in town as far as long as we've shown it, but it has grown. I think the youth soccer has really grown in Northern Minnesota, which then obviously the kids get more into it, the parents are more into it because their kids are into it. So you see a lot of family involvement and just kind of that energy and excitement.

DAN CROCKER: That excitement continues Saturday when the US takes on the Netherlands in the round of 16. It'll be an early morning at Dublin's. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 AM. Dan Crocker, MPR News, Duluth.

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