PHILADELPHIA — As a wide-eyed 14-year-old, Danny Califf began to understand the true power of soccer. That’s when the Philadelphia Union captain went to four World Cup games at the Rose Bowl – an experience, he said, that would shape his future.
“Just to see the type of commitment and organization that goes into putting on such a spectacle, to be able to go to a game and see all of the different nationalities – this nation is built on diversity and bringing together cultures,” Califf said. “The US itself embodies what the World Cup is about, which is bringing people together and working together.”
And that’s what made FIFA’s decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, rather than the United States, so disappointing. Califf saw how special an American World Cup could be 16 years ago when the event shattered every tournament attendance record as people from all walks of life and backgrounds convened on stadiums across the country.
And he knows how special it could have been 12 years from now as the sport continues to surge in appeal and popularity.
“Obviously this is just my personal opinion, but I think we would have put on the best event FIFA has ever seen,” the Union’s veteran central defender said. “But, you know, that’s crying over spilled milk I guess.”
Like others, Califf mixed in some cynicism with his displeasure.
“I’m certainly disappointed, but I don’t think I’m all that surprised to be honest,” he said. “FIFA has been trending towards trying to give World Cups and opportunities to countries that have been underdeveloped with regards to world soccer.”
For Union goalkeepers Brad Knighton and Chris Seitz – both of whom joined Califf and Union fans at the Philly pub Tir Na Nag on Thursday to watch the announcement live – the most disappointing part was the missed opportunity to showcase their adopted city to the world.
“Here in Philadelphia, we would have shown what big soccer fans we are,” Seitz said. “It went to an up-and-coming country in Qatar, but for us it’s very disappointing.”
“It would have been especially great to bring the World Cup to Philly,” Knighton added. “It would have been great for this city to host a World Cup game.
“Hopefully we’ll get one here in the next few years after that.”
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