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."
Here's a look at some other local soccer fans, and their rooting interests:
The Dudney family's dilemma
Roland Dudney of North Andover grew up in England. He came to the U.S. at the age of 21 in 1985.
He is the father of North Andover High soccer player Evan Dudney and 2009 Eagle-Tribune soccer Player of the Year Gareth Dudney, who scored 19 goals last fall for the Scarlet Knights and will play at Franklin Pierce next school year.
The World Cup has always been a big deal in the Dudney household.
Roland's favorite Cup memory was in 2002, when he and Gareth, then 10, watched two games in the middle of the night.
The first game was at 2:30 a.m.
"At 2:25 a.m., Gareth came into my bedroom, woke me up and reminded me that the World Cup was on," Roland said. "I made some tea. We watched the first game. And of course, with Senegal winning against France, that completely woke me up. Then after the game, I was getting ready to go to bed and Gareth very excitedly told me that the next game was to start in less than an hour."
Gareth said he, Evan and their dad plan to watch as many World Cup games as possible over the next month.
"We got a DVR basically for the World Cup," Gareth said.
But the Dudneys have a problem coming up this Saturday. That's when the U.S. plays England, the two teams they will be rooting for.
"I think during that first game, there's going to be a lot of conflict in my mind," Roland said. But in the end, he thinks England will win it all.
"I'm looking forward to celebrating when they do," he said.
Syrian fan roots for Italy and Brazil
Wisam Nakkoul, owner of J & W Shoe Repair in North Andover, grew up in Syria and came to this country when he was 17 years old.
He said he played soccer for nearly three hours every day while in Syria. He and his pals would skip school to watch the World Cup.
"Some of the evening classes I used to take to prepare for the finals, I used to skip those," said Nakkoul, who is in his 30s.
Nakkoul, whose friends call him "Sam," purchased a television for his shop before the 2006 World Cup just so he could watch all the games.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I just called Comcast to get the service back."
Nakkoul said he plans to watch every game, and he will cheer for both Italy and Brazil.
"Of course, there's less important games than others, but I'll still be watching every one," he said.
Local pharmacist rooting for another win for Italy
Jerry Petrosillo, 45, of Methuen will be cheering for Italy first, and for good reason. His father is a native and was offered a professional contract to play in his homeland, but decided to come to the United States instead.
His favorite World Cup memory is watching Italy play live when the World Cup was at Foxboro Stadium in 1994.
Petrosillo, a pharmacist, said he plans to try and watch every game, despite his busy job.
"The first games all start at 3 (p.m.), and I already told my boss that I have to be home for each 3 o'clock game," he said.
Petrosillo played soccer at Austin Prep in Reading and then at the Mass College of Pharmacy. He also played semi-pro before deciding to pursue a career in pharmacy.
So which team does Petrosillo peg as the favorite?
"Italy," he said. "No doubt. Defending champs!"
Ex-pro from El Salvador pulling for the U.S.
Ricardo Mendoza, 54, was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. in 1973.
Mendoza played in a professional team's farm system in El Salvador and then played college soccer at City College of New York. He also played for a semi-pro team in New York City before moving to Massachusetts.
One of his favorite World Cup memories was in 1978, when World Cup games were not televised. So he bought tickets to Madison Square Garden, which was showing the games on the big screen.
"It was almost like being in the stadium," Mendoza said.
El Salvador failed to qualify for the World Cup this year, so Mendoza will be cheering for the U.S.
"You always root for your home country," he said, adding that the U.S. team is a long shot because some of its players are getting older.
Ex-Jamaica player says six teams could win
Corlton Simmond, whose son Andre Simmond plays soccer at Londonderry High, was born in the United States, but spent 17 years living in Jamaica, where he played for the national team. When he went to school, he said he would cut classes to watch World Cup games.
"Everyone who was my age, we didn't miss any games," he said. "If it was during school hours, we would go (to the house) of whoever lived closest to the school. Close to game time, we'd be leaving school, cutting school to go watch the game, because that was more important to us then."
Simmond said he will be cheering for Argentina this year. He also plans to try to watch every game.
"This World Cup, more than any other World Cup, is very open," he said. "There's probably six teams out there that can win. ... Argentina is a team that can win. Brazil is a team that can win. Netherlands has a great team. The Italians, as usual, have a strong team. The Spanish team is also strong."