After an eight-year wait, cheering American fans celebrate their national team’s return to the World Cup against Wales.
Washington, D.C. – It was a nail biter – a two-half game that could have gone either way.
And while the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) drew 1–1 against Wales in his first World Cup game in more than eight years on Monday, for many American fans, the excitement began at kickoff and didn’t stop until the final whistle, regardless of the score.
“It was incredible,” said 33-year-old Allan Hutchins of hearing the US national anthem the Worldcup. “Ah-may-zing, absolutely wonderful,” he added, emphasizing each syllable.
Hutchins was one of dozens of U.S. fans who gathered Monday afternoon at an outdoor park near DuPont Circle in the heart of Washington, D.C., to watch the U.S. team take the field at Qatar’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Chants of “USA, USA” and “I believe that we will win” erupted among the crowd as soon as the American national anthem ended.
Still, Hutchins was not entirely satisfied with the end result. He said the USA should have won as the team dominated the game for a long time and took the lead, only for Wales to equalize with a late penalty.
Vladimir Guzman, another American fan, also said he was not happy with the draw, but he was happy enough to see the USMNT in Qatarespecially considering that his native Bolivia has not qualified for the World Cup since 1994.
“Why should I be disappointed? I think we played great,” he told Al Jazeera.
With football – known as football in the US – becoming more and more popular over the years, the World Cup is attracting the attention of people all over the country.
Viewers are adjusting their daily schedules and some cities are even changing the rules to accommodate the tournament. For example, the City Council in Washington, D.C. approved an emergency measure allowing bars and restaurants to remain open 24/7 during the World Cup.
At DuPont Circle on Monday, jubilant fans roared, jumped and hugged as American striker Timothy Whea put the ball past the Welsh keeper into the back of the net to put the team 1-0 up in the 36th minute.
The fans in jerseys and flags weren’t deterred by the cold weather as they gathered to watch the game.
“It has been coming for a long time,” said 21-year-old Mamadou Wone of the US’s return to the World Cup. “Last time we missed, and it was a bit heartbreaking for me. But at least we are back and hopefully we can go as far as possible.”
Egyptian-American Youssef Ibrahim, standing in a US team jersey with an American flag sticker on his cheek, was one of the most visibly excited fans at the watch party. He was 11 years old when the US last played at a World Cup.
“Everyone has been waiting eight years for this moment,” Ibrahim told Al Jazeera. “It’s just a crazy feeling.”