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25 April 2013

Soccer watch parties unite multicultural fans

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Students watch Bayern Munich and Barcelona play in the first leg of the semifinal of the Champions League Tournament on TV in the lower UC. Bayern Munich beat Barcelona in a shutout with a final score of 4-0. Charlotte Cushing // Contributing Photographer

Charlotte Cushing // Contributing Photographer

On Wednesday afternoon, a large crowd of students crowded around three big-screen TVs in the University Center to watch football. But it wasn’t the Canes kind. It was the European Champions League Tournament, where soccer – or football as it is called outside the U.S. – is king.

Many of them are international students, passionate about the sport and cheering for their favorite team to make the winning goal. These unofficial watch parties on the lower level of the UC have become a staple for international soccer fans at UM.

“Many international students love crowding in the UC to watch these soccer matches,” said Hong-Uyen Hua, president of the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO). “I know that one of our organizations, the European Students Union, has been trying to organize a watch party for the European Champions League Tournament.”

Abel Champion, a senior who works at the UC information desk, said the gatherings have been taking place for a while.

“It started off slowly, last semester,” said Champion, who also serves as chair of the Federation of Club Sports. “A few people would ask if they could watch a soccer game on TV and if there was nothing important on or if no one else was already watching the TV, we would let them change it.”

The most popular games to watch in the UC are top European teams, said Gaston Melo-Felgueres, an international student from Paris who also works at the UC information desk.

“Right now we’re in the second leg of the quarterfinals, with the finals coming up in May,” Melo-Felgueres said.

While there is no official organization for this, soccer fans seem to know when to show up before game time and settle in to watch together.

“You don’t hear about them. You just know when the game starts, and you show up,” said Matias Stanham, a freshman originally from Uruguay. Game schedules and score updates can be found at uefa.com.