Locals and visitors wearing the enemy red crest far outnumbered those in Union gear tailgating under a hot sun yesterday in South Philadelphia.
While South Jersey guys Dennis Mailahn, Matt Ranjowski and a respectable supply of Miller Lite had little problem with the scene, their pal Ken Funkhouser took notice.
“For me, it’s as bad as being surrounded by Dallas Cowboys fans,” said Funkhouser, a Union fan from Haddon Heights. “I’m also a fan of [Manchester United archrival] Chelsea.”
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Mailahn, a Barcelona supporter, and Ranjowski were content that people turned out in a city just getting its soccer feet under it. Combine 890,000 online-petition signatures to bring the World Cup to Philadelphia, with a Pattison Avenue vuvuzela serenade, and wider American acceptance doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched.
Some 44,213 fans crammed Lincoln Financial Field to watch an Eagles-Temple mismatch turn into an Eagles-Giants throwdown featuring first-half scoring chances from Union’s Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux, but no goals.
Then came the second-half substitutions. After ManU star Dimitar Berbatov entered in the 61st minute, a Union giveaway led to a Gabriel Obertan goal 15 minutes later.
Union midfielder Andrew Jacobson just missed an equalizer with three minutes left. But the result didn’t matter to the pregame crowd.
“It’s just awesome,” said Ranjowski, “to be able to see such a quality international team play a stone’s throw away from where I live.”