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Once every four years, the World Cup seizes the entire world in a frenzy of national pride and a joyous celebration of "the beautiful game." People of all ages and backgrounds are united under the flag

This year, the tournament is being hosted in South Africa - the first time the games have been played on the African continent - and the surrounding hype has reached perhaps the greatest heights in the history of the event.

With soccer - or football, rather - still not having made its way to mainstream status in the States, The Daily Californian reached out to a few of Cal's own international athletes for their recollections and thoughts on both the 2010 World Cup and the sport itself.

ITALY- Giorgio Tavecchio, Football

How is it trying to keep up as a fan here?

I have to get up at like 5:30 a.m. to watch games live, and obviously that's the time difference, but it's more of a backseat sport, especially in terms of the broadcasting, but now it's gotten much much better ... I think the experience just varies a little bit between number one, people going crazy in Europe - restaurants, everything shut down - to here, having soccer in the back page of the Contra Costa Times.

Where were you when Italy won in 2006?

I worked at this restaurant that was two doors down from the theater downtown - that restaurant owned the theater back then - and the owner was an old Roman guy - awesome guy, by the way. He showed the semifinal and the final of the 2006 World Cup on the big screen in the theater.

I think all the Italians in the area gathered there ... I remember leaving the theater after we won in just ecstasy. I was with my family, my Italian friends. It was pretty much a theater packed with Italians celebrating, so that was kind of a microcosm of how it is all over Europe.

What do you think of the American-born Giuseppe Rossi not playing for the U.S.?

If you had the chance to play for the U.S. national basketball team, or like the Mexican national basketball team, who would you pick? I think it was an easy decision for him. I think he was born in the United States, he grew up in New Jersey a little bit, but then he went back to Italy, so he got fully immersed in the Italian way of life. Italy has a more historic soccer tradition, and they just won the World Cup, so in all that frenzy, it's easy to be drawn to the Italian national team if you had a choice.

GERMANY- Pia Halbig, Women's Golf

How are the fans in Germany?

Once the team plays in any big event, basically everybody will be following. Its part of the national consciousness. Some of the fans are just crazy.

Following the team around and everything. I would say the "normal" German fan will have a German flag on his or her car and be watching all the games.

What do you remember from the 2006 World Cup in Germany?

(It) was an absolutely amazing experience. So many people from all over the world were in Germany and everybody seemed to be having a good time. In every big city, you could find huge TVs in public spaces where everybody came together to watch the games.

In Berlin, there were over half a million people on the street watching the games. It was just a huge hype and so much fun.

I went to one game. Unfortunately, I didn't see Germany playing but still just being in the stadium was an unforgettable experience.

Everybody was proud to be from its home country.

SOUTH AFRICA- Brian Dudley, Men's Water Polo

What has the atmosphere been like back home?

It's absolutely crazy there. I get a chance to go back every year December time during Christmas. I go to my hometown and drive past streets, there's a couple of streets that I can't even recognize anymore. There's infrastructure going up everywhere, fans going crazy, they're all getting so pumped.

I think there's been six or seven new stadiums. The largest one being where the final is going to be played. Every single one, if it wasn't a brand new one, was renovated.

Our team, South Africa, which is known as "Bafana Bafana," which means "boys boys" - (they had a) 12-game unbeaten streak. You can go into anything, Facebook, and all South Africans are getting so absolutely pumped about the tournament.

Are you going home to watch?

It was pretty unfortunate. We're going on a trip to Serbia with the team from June 16 to the Fourth of July ... Obviously, it's right in the middle of the World Cup. I'd love to go back for a week after, but it's a little too late to book flights.

It's the first time on the entire African continent. That's the thing that probably hurts the most. Obviously, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was a huge letdown not to be able to go to see that. To have people coming to my country and showing it off, it would've been something special.

What do you think of your chances?

I was told the other day that the host nation has never failed to make it past the group stages ... To get out of the group stage will obviously be huge for us. It's going to be exciting. I'm going to give them one past quarterfinals. I'm going to give semifinals.

How could this help your country?

One of the main reasons why there's crime is poverty. I'm sure all the infrastructure that's gone on and the jobs that are created through that and the amount of money from people touring and buying, it'll be huge for not only South Africa but Africa as a continent.

Tags: GIORGIO TAVECCHIO, PIA HALBIG, BRIAN DUDLEY, WORLD CUP 2010






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