World Cup Fever Grips Port Chester Soccer Fans

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Mayria Tepan, of Port Chester, N.Y., holds the jersey of Ecuador, her native country, while in Soccer Land in Stamford on Wednesday. The World Cup begins Thursday, and Ecuador is one of the countries taking part.
Mayria Tepan, of Port Chester, N.Y., holds the jersey of Ecuador, her native country, while in Soccer Land in Stamford on Wednesday. The World Cup begins Thursday, and Ecuador is one of the countries taking part. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Maynor Gonzalez, owner of Soccer Land, holds up the jerseys of Portugal's superstar Ronaldo and Brazilian favorite Neymar. The World Cup begins Thursday, and Gonzalez believes host Brazil and Germany are the favorites to win.
Maynor Gonzalez, owner of Soccer Land, holds up the jerseys of Portugal's superstar Ronaldo and Brazilian favorite Neymar. The World Cup begins Thursday, and Gonzalez believes host Brazil and Germany are the favorites to win. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Mayria Tepan isn't a huge soccer fan. But she was gearing up on Stamford for the sport's biggest tournament -- the World Cup -- which begins Thursday. 

"I am not really into it, but by default I will because my dad and my brother are big into soccer," Port Chester, N.Y., resident Tepan said while shopping Wednesday in Soccer Land at 2538 Summer St. in Stamford. 

In fact, she was shopping for her brother, Kristian, who turns 32 on Thursday and bought him a Lionel Messi jersey. Messi is one of the sport's biggest stars because of his goalscoring exploits with Barcelona in Spain and is also leading Argentina in the World Cup.

Her father, Manuel, and brother Kristian would like to see Ecuador win, but she said they are pulling for Argentina, a much stronger soccer powerhouse.

"We are from Ecuador, but we've got to be realistic," she said with a laugh about the team's chances.

Brazil, a soccer powerhouse and tournament favorite, has won five World Cups and is the host for the 32-team tournament. However, in 1950 when Brazil hosted its first World Cup, it was Uruguay that won the cup.

A major factor in Brazil's favor is that South American countries have won the four World Cup tournaments held on the continent, plus the two held in Mexico. Also, in the 1994 World Cup held in the United States, Brazil emerged as the victor.

The only European country to win on another continent is Spain, which won in South Africa four years ago.

Soccer Land owner Maynor Gonzalez believes Brazil is the favorite. But Germany is also a strong contender, and he believes it has a shot at breaking the Americas jinx for European countries.

Gonzalez, who is heavily involved in coaching soccer teams in the city, said friends persuaded him to open the business because they wanted a soccer shop that was close to home. He took the plunge and opened his doors five months ago. His customers have supported him, he said, even to the point of sometimes over-shopping.

"They come here and and they don't even need something, but they buy it because they want to support me," he said.

The 42-year-old Stamford resident, who has lived in the city for 25 years since leaving his native Guatemala, said he has seen a tremendous growth in soccer since he first came to the country.

"It's very popular, especially in the last few years," he said.

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