World Cup fever grips KMC

***image1***Ordinarily, swarms of paint-drenched citizens chanting slogans in city
streets might be cause for alarm. But in a World Cup year, where
patriotism and fair play stand in equal regard, it’s just good fun.
Since Kaiserslautern is one of this year’s World Cup cities, many
members of the KMC have joined the fray.

Football fever kicked off in earnest June 9, when thousands of revelers
gathered in Kaiserslautern’s Fan Fest zones to watch Germany defeat
Costa Rica 4-2. The following days saw an array of entertaining
spectacles that were not everyday occurrences for local residents.
Inflatable kangaroos shared space with rising suns. Mimes on stilts
marched past schwenksteak stands. Drew Carey pummeled Airmen with an
inflatable joust.

Kaiserslautern hosted its first game as a World Cup city June 12, which
resulted in a 3-1 Australia victory over Japan. For Mika Veazey, Keiko
Yamasaki and Naomi Grant, military wives originally from Japan who
worked as Japanese-speaking volunteers on gameday, the experience was
great. “We were very excited meeting and helping many visitors,” said
Mrs. Veazey. “We almost could not have a break as the fans constantly
needed assistance with directions to the stadium, ATM machines, hotels,
ticket pickup points and anywhere else they wanted to go. Sometimes
we’d just chat with them and make friends – since we were saying hello
to almost everyone we’d see, we cheered everybody up and got them ready
for the game.”

The U.S. national team flew into Ramstein June 15 to prepare for their
matchup with Italy two days later. Consequently, Kaiserslautern’s World
Cup Mile was the place to be Friday and Saturday as fans from around
the world were treated to street performers, musical acts and large
screen televisions to watch the games. Italian and American fans talked
football stats and strategy, making new friends across the city.

“The World Cup is a great place to share your passion for soccer with
fans from other nations,” said Tech. Sgt. Aland Sanchez, 152nd Air
Operations Center, who cheered for Argentina and Mexico in their
matches Friday.
“Soccer creates a bond with fans who normally you would never get a chance to meet; it’s really a unique experience.”

For many Americans, the weekend really got into full swing during the
Extreme Summer World Cup Fan Fest, held at Pulaski Park on Saturday.
The event featured an array of live musical acts, games, a human
foosball table and a 400 square-foot Jumbotron that showed the U.S.A.
vs. Italy game. As a bonus, noted comedians Drew Carey and Greg Proops
– from “Whose Line is it Anyway” – showed up to help entertain the

For Lt. Col. Erik Daiga, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern commander,
the event was unique in that it was planned by both the Army and Air
Force. “We wanted to combine resources,” he said, “We knew that if we
were going to make it on a grand scale with more than 3,000 people in
attendance – Army and Air Force, and lots of bands, concessions and
kids’ activities, neither one of us (Garrison Morale, Welfare and
Recreation, and 431st Services Squadron) had the resources to do it
alone so we combined our efforts and resources to have a big blowout in
one location, combining all the available MWR and Services resources of
both commands.”

According to Col. Jack Briggs, 38th Combat Support Wing vice commander,
one of the key reasons for holding the Fan Fest was to provide a more
family-friendly option to the events being held in downtown

“The emphasis of this fest is number one to celebrate the community
that we have here on Vogelweh and Pulaski Barracks – a very unique part
of the KMC is the fact that we have both here on this facility,” said
Colonel Briggs. “The second reason was that all the stuff going on
downtown happens at a bar or it happens in a late night facility. We
wanted to do something that the families can get into – something that
an entire family can have something to do all day.”

For Carey, a comedian, former Marine and star of “The Drew Carey Show,”
the chance to meet troops and their families was great. But he had an
especially good time participating in some of the more “active” games,
including human foosball and jousting. “I loved it. Anytime I have a
chance to beat up on kids, I’ll be there,” he joked. “Jousting – no
problem, I was in the Marine Corps – they used to call me King Arthur
in boot camp.”

World Cup fever will doubtlessly grip the KMC until the final whistle
blows on July 9 in Berlin. Kaiserslautern hosts its final match Monday
– a qualifier between the winner of Group E and the runner-up from
Group F. Until then, many residents will continue to enjoy the madness.
(Compiled by Christine June, Monica Mendoza and Nate Cairney,
Kaiserslautern American)