Copa América Unites Cultures in the Heart of Atlanta

Supporters of Team USA and Colombia’s National Team gather in Atlanta’s Atlantic Station to watch the opening match of the Copa América Tournament.

Image Credit: ABC 7

Copa América, the Western hemisphere’s premiere soccer tournament, began first-round play with the United States vs Colombia in Santa Clara, California on Friday.

More than 2,400 miles away, hundreds of Atlantans gathered to watch the sold-out event on a spacious screen in the center of Atlantic Station. The red, white and blue reigned over Atlantic Station. Before the kick off, however, the yellow, blue and red jerseys in the crowd started flowing in and taking over. The jerseys poked out like yellow daisies along the grass.

[Photo: Supporters of Team USA and Team Colombia gather in Atlanta’s Atlantic Station on June 3, 2016.]

The crowd was uniquely different, representing a city rich in diversity within the heart of “The Transplant City.”

Atlanta has built the reputation as a city where culture and society collide. Many immigrants express coming to Georgia because it has developed itself as the core of expression.

In the crowd sat Catherine Meyers, 32, a Colombian woman. Beside her, cheering every play that the US seemed to capitalize and then quickly lose, was Brandon Meyers, 35, an American and self-proclaimed “Georgia Boy.” The two are married.

“The house is not divided,” Brandon Meyers said. “Our daughter is Colombian-American and we support both sides — just not when they’re playing each other.”

Most of the crowd were supporting team USA. in their hope of capturing a Copa América trophy. Those hopes fell short when the USA went down 0–2 in minute 42 of the match.

Martha Revelo, 24, a Salvadorian-American and political science major from Georgia State University, gathered around many Mexican-American fans, who divided by their chosen team.

“It’s a hub of culture here in America,” Revelo said. “I’m Salvadorian-American at a fútbol game that my team isn’t playing in.”

[Photo: Colombian fútbol fans come out to support Colombia’s 2–0 victory over Team USA in the opening round of the Copa América on June 3, 2016.]

Today, nine percent of Georgians are Hispanic, according to The Pew Research Center. Compared to 4.5 percent in 2000, the culture of Hispanics has significantly grown.

In fact, Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the country.

This new emergence of culture may be the reason soccer has developed so well in the States. Soccer has been developing quickly in the Southeast. So much so that recently, Atlanta announced its first Major League Soccer team in the city’s history.

Sean Pinto, 24, business owner and coach of 90/10 Soccer, was impressed with the turnout.

“It’s about damn time a turnout like this happened,” Pinto said. “It would mean everything for soccer to keep growing like this in America.”

Pinto, who wore a United States Men’s National Team away jersey, proudly sung Queen’s “We are the Champions” when USA forward Clint Dempsey had an opportunity to tie on a penalty kick before the conclusion of the second half.

Dempsey missed wide left.

“So close!” Pinto said. “Every time!”

Pinto was a member of the Atlanta Silverbacks soccer club throughout his youth. His father, a native of Trinidad & Tobago, raised him to appreciate and enjoy soccer.

He said he believes that soccer has substantially grown in the Southeast because of culture.

“Look around you. This all didn’t even begin until two years ago,” Pinto said, referring to the popularity team USA soaked in throughout the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

What is truly unique about soccer is the way it brings all people together. The most popular sport in the world unites, well, a world.

Regardless of identity, fans and people alike were gathered to converse and enjoy the unique identities of those around them. A global community emerged on the turf grass that laid dormant in the center of a shopping center within a great city. Unity always goes far beyond the scoreboard.

When the USMNT walked off the field in disappointment, soccer fans in Georgia walked out of Atlantic Station as a community, happy to have another reason to be among each other.

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