AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) – The bald head came dressed head to toe in full American spirit. Red, white and blue bandanas, mismatched stars and stripes and socks, shorts that could be swimming trunks are perfect for a summer barbeque.
Philip Labas proudly wore a jersey for the United States men’s soccer team Saturday as it went through the 18th game of its first trip to the World Cup. He is part of the American Outlaws, a group that supports the group’s supporters, and they gathered under the Aspire Tower to march as a group to their seats inside the Khalifa International Stadium.
It was Lebas’ job to fire up the crowd. He sang and sang with the friends he made during his years supporting US Soccer, and as the men’s team made their way to the Round of 16, Labas became their voice.
The now-unemployed Chicago resident should have been looking for a cyber security job at the time of the crash in Doha, but he’s having a lot of fun chanting “USA!” and sing “When the Yanks Come in” for all Americans. Even before the Netherlands’ 3-1 defeat ends one game at the World Cup. Labas has already extended his house into next week because he is sure that the United States will beat the Dutch.
American audiences tuned in to the first three US games in record numbers watching the second smallest team in the World Cup, a team that for two weeks helped to unite a broken nation.
Labas said, “Their spirit, their anger, their strength, their relationship with each other shows themselves, and in the grand scheme of things, they are friendly young men.” “It’s one focus, one goal, they’re all pulling for each other, I think every one of them will run into the wall for each other.
“But that’s America, right?” Labas said. “Different backgrounds, different people coming together for a common purpose, and that’s one of the things that binds this team together. I think, with two guys from different parts of Florida, a guy from Minneapolis, I’m from Chicago, we live together in Qatar. We’ve spent the last 2½ weeks together just loving life and loving this team.”
The crowd that Labas attended at the stadium included off-duty US servicemen from nearby Al Udeid Air Force Base, a young couple from Texas, two friends from Redwood City, California, and a woman from Uganda who now lives in Qatar and doesn’t ‘ He also likes soccer but the American team likes him.
“I got tickets to the game and I’m so happy,” said Mastula Kyongo, wearing a bright red shirt, a Team USA shirt and a scarf emblazoned with the American flag. young, beautiful and I love everything about them.”
The United States has not qualified for the World Cup in the past four years, so many of its 26-man squad have never had such American pride. They received messages from their former hometowns, learned that class work had been suspended so students could watch their games, and seen news broadcasts from conferences around the United States.
“The support is amazing. The number of people who came to me leading to this event, to these games, “said the captain of the United States Tyler Adams after the victory of the Netherlands. “It would not be possible without the support of the American people, who America supports this whole trip, Americans support back home. I hope we gave them something to be excited about going forward.”
Heather Holland and Alejandro Szenkier traveled to Doha from Dallas to fulfill Szenkier’s lifelong dream of going to the World Cup. He’s from Uruguay and this World Cup shortstop has them making the trip, seeing two games in a day, and cheering for the USA.
Szenkier wore an American flag as part of traditional Arab clothing and insisted that, along with striker Christian Pulisic, the United States is developing a team that will compete in world football.
“He’s probably the best US player in history,” Szenkier said. “This will be a great team four years from now and help build a generation for American soccer.”
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