By AMANDA PICCIRILLI
For 21st Century Media
World Cup fever has officially hit the globe and what better way to celebrate soccer’s greatest playing stage than at a FIFA watch party with thousands of other futbol fans?
Kicking off last weekend, the SteelStacks in Bethlehem is welcoming back soccer fans of all kinds from June 19-22 for the 2014 FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party. Whether you are interested in watching a World Cup match or becoming more educated on the sport, this free weekend offers programs, clinics, hands-on activities and special events each day for all ages.
One of a select few outdoor viewing events in the nation officially approved by FIFA, the FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party features 26 World Cup Brazil games shown on two 17-by-27-foot outdoor LED screens on SteelStacks’ Air Products Town Square and Levitt Pavilion.
Hundreds of fans gathered outside the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks Campus on Saturday, June 14, wearing jerseys from multiple countries including the United States, Italy, England and Mexico.
“We’re Greek, we have a lot of pride for our country and our team,” said Athena Tahos, 22, of Allentown, who was watching the Greece versus Columbia match on the outdoor televisions.
“Watching (our country) play soccer is a huge part of the family culture,” said Tahos. “Today we have kids ranging from ages 7 to 26 here, and of course our parents. This is what our families are all about.”
While watching the matches, food and drinks are available including BBQ-style favorites, kabobs, ice cream, alcoholic beverages and much more. You can watch the matches at tables with umbrellas on the Air Products Town Square or head to the Levitt Pavilion lawn sitting on one of their built-in benches or bring your own blanket or lawn chair.
Standing on the Levitt Pavilion lawn was Martin Florez of Allentown supporting his native country of Columbia. He was watching the match with family members who are visiting the United States.
“It’s great, nine family members are here on vacation all from Columbia,” said Florez. “The World Cup is very important to us. We of course would rather be watching in Columbia at a bar, but as you can see, they all came prepared with outfits, wigs and gear to celebrate.”
The Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA) is hosting clinics, demos and organized 3v3 games throughout the entire weekend. Based out of Plymouth Meeting, EPYSA’s purpose is to “foster and perpetuate the game of soccer on the youth level … and foster the mental, physical and emotional growth of (youth) through the sport of soccer,” states the association’s website.
Both during and after World Cup matches, families have plenty of entertainment for children including the Good Shepherd Pediatrics’ Soccer Clinic for Children with Disabilities, Philadelphia Union Fun Zone, TD Bank family fun station and XBOX Station.
“This is just an absolutely great event for the entire family,” said Tim Maker of Bethlehem. “My sons, Josh and Drew, are just learning the game but this allows them to learn the sport in a fun atmosphere.”
No matter the topic there are always ways to increase your knowledge and the FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party on June 14 and 15 taught guests about the Bethlehem Steel Football Club.
Daniel Paul Morrison of Willow Grove led the presentation on Bethlehem Steel F.C., one of the most successful and decorated soccer teams in U.S. history. His presentation spoke about the team’s origination, outstanding records (winning the National Cup five times — 1915, 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1926 — the American Cup six times — 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1924 and had two 41-game winning streaks seasons) and the team’s completion in 1930.
“I’m blessed (ArtsQuest) is hosting this entire event,” said Morrison. “Soccer is a great game and it’s amazing to see that this town has not (forgotten) about the history and legacy this team has had here.”
For those who missed the presentation, Morrison suggests visiting his website http://bethlehemsteelsoccer.org where you can read newspaper articles, view pictures and learn about the team’s entire history.
Throughout the weekend guests are welcome 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.
This weekend also includes ¡Sabor! Latin Festival from June 20-22 which features live music by local, regional and national musical acts, as well as a wide variety of cultural programming presented by community organizations.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup SoccerFest and Viewing Party takes place Thursday, June 19, through Sunday, June 22, at ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks Campus, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem. For the entire weekend schedule of events and to register for some of the soccer clinics, visit http://soccerfest.discoverlehighvalley.com.