It was a scene reminiscent of European and South American cities — thousands of raucous fans waving flags and cheering passionately while supporting their favorite football squads’ hopes in the globe’s biggest sporting spectacle.
So who ever said America was apathetic about the World Cup?
Swarms of blue-clad fans congregated on the sloping hills of Dolores Park on Sunday afternoon to view the World Cup final between perennial powers Italy and France.
An estimated 10,000 supporters watched Italy’s dramatic shootout victory on a 9-by-13 foot television screen in the park under ideal conditions — a perfectly serene, clear sky — apt for two national teams’ known for their famous blue jerseys.
This amazing gathering of football aficionados was created and organized essentially by one man — German-born events promoter Jens-Peter Jungblaussen.
“I started thinking about organizing this event about a year ago, but I assumed some big company would do it first,” said Jungblaussen, who received about half of the estimated $17,000 bill for the event via the German Consulate and the German Chamber of Commerce. The other half he hoped to recoup through merchandise sales and donations from attendees.
“Then, about two months ago, I just decided to really go for it. I started sending out messages from my e-mail lists from my other events, and word of mouth really picked up. Still, I had no idea it was going to be this big,” she said.
Jungblaussen also supplied disc jockeys for the event, as well condiment stands replete with beverages and food.
The overflowing crowd packed into the upper field in the park — some standing as far as hundreds of feet from the enormous screen — all the while cheering fervently after every big moment in the match.
“I heard about this two days ago and thought it would be a nice way to watch the game,” said Wassim Rimehy, a French supporter originally from Lebanon. “It really is remarkable to see how many people showed up.”
“I’ve been following soccer all my life, and Italy has always been one of my favorite teams,” Berkeley native Payer Grove said. “Some friends told us about that they would be screening the game here, but I don’t think we realized it was going to be this huge with this many people.”
The turnout for the event could be considered nothing less than a smashing success, a result that left Jungblaussen visibly beaming.
“We had no idea what to expect,” said Jungblaussen, who operates an enormous Biodiesel van at all of his events to promote the cause of alternative energy. “We started out with no money for this, and by the end we had 10,000 people here. It has truly been amazing.”