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Merrimack Valley

June 6, 2010

Die-hard local soccer fans prepare for the World Cup

The year was 1982. The World Cup was in Spain. And Methuen High girls soccer coach Peter Kitsos was on his honeymoon in Greece.

That his honeymoon was in Greece, where his parents were born, was no coincidence.

"Actually, I planned it for then so I could go to Greece and watch it there, because at that time the World Cup wasn't televised in this country as much," Kitsos said.

His friends even provided him with scoring updates during his wedding ceremony.

"I am nuts about the game," he said, laughing.

Kitsos has company in the Merrimack Valley — lots of company.

The World Cup kicks off next weekend in South Africa, and many local fans have a rooting interest well beyond the United States team, which opens against England on Saturday.

Kitsos spent the first 14 years of his life in Greece before moving to the United States. He would love to see the U.S. team do well. But he wants Greece to win.

"Even though I support Greece I want the U.S to do well, too, because it would be good for soccer in this country," he said.

Kitsos tried to win World Cup tickets in a lottery, but was unsuccessful.

"I have my DVR set so I can watch all the games," he said.

Kitsos thinks this year's three front runners will be Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands.

Thanks to TV and its commitment to televising the games, interest in this World Cup might be the best ever. That's a big difference from as recently as 1980.

Londonderry girls soccer coach Derek Dane remembers searching for places to watch the World Cup with his coach when he was attending college in Maine.

"He and I walked into a pub and they were OK with turning the TV to ESPN... until the baseball crowd showed up and wanted to watch the Red Sox game," Dane said. "So we got second billing. It's interesting that 20, 25 years later, ESPN and ABC are showing every last game. You can turn on the TV and it's there for you. It has changed."

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