CINCINNATI — There’s eager anticipation — along with some divided loyalties — for German-American fans who had been rooting for both teams until their pivotal World Cup clash.
Organizers expect thousands to show up Thursday at Cincinnati’s Fountain Square for a watch party when the U.S. soccer team plays Germany. The downtown square also is home of the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, which drew 600,000 last year for the annual celebration of the city’s vaunted German heritage, often with beer and bratwurst.
Grant Park in Chicago has been drawing huge crowds, an estimated 20,000 on Sunday, for outdoor watch parties, while sports bars and ethnic pubs there and in other U.S. cities with large German-American populations such as Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul have been packed for World Cup games and are ready for a big Thursday.
The German-themed Glockenspiel restaurant in St. Paul, planned to open early to get fans seated before the game, and in the Cleveland area, the Donauschwaben German-American Cultural Center in Olmstead Falls expects its restaurant to be busy.
In Cincinnati, “German-Americans here are really excited about both teams,” said Don Heinrich Tolzmann, president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati. Some are reflecting their divided loyalties by wearing German jerseys with U.S. hats, he added.
“It has a double-barreled type of excitement for everybody,” he said, noting that the U.S. team not only has a German coach but five German-American players.
German immigrants who flocked here in the 19th century shaped architecture, religious life, arts and cuisine in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and throughout the city, with hundreds of thousands of people of German descent still in the Cincinnati region today.
Organizers have been pleasantly surprised by turnouts for the first two Fountain Square watch parties, estimating some 5,000 fans were there for the U.S. game with Ghana and 7,000 or more for the Portugal game on Sunday, watching a huge screen on the side of a building, with food and drink vendors working the square.
Brittney Carden, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, said it was difficult to predict Thursday’s crowd since it’s a workday for many, but she expects people to throng there at least during lunch breaks.
Fountain Square is the traditional public gathering spot for celebrations of big wins by the Cincinnati Reds, who around the turn of the 20th century were sometimes referred to as “The Rhinelanders.”
But while it’s still early in the major league baseball season, it’s a crucial day for U.S. hopes of World Cup survival.
That’s why Don Johnson, 68, shelled out $21 Wednesday for a U.S. Soccer T-shirt, a first for him.
“I’m more interested this time,” Johnson said. “I’m getting into the spirit.”
Johnson said that neither he nor his friends will be rooting for Germany, but that there’s a lot of respect for the three-time champions.
“I’m kind of hoping for a tie,” he said.
Not Alexander Saar, among a few dozen people on the square Wednesday watching the end of Argentina’s 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
“I’m for Germany. I’m born in (Frankfurt) Germany,” said Saar, 35.
He’s pleased to see Americans warming to the game he insists should be called “football,” not soccer, in the city where professional baseball was born in 1869 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. But he’s not big on baseball.
“It’s too boring,” he said with a grin.