DOHA, Qatar — Philadelphia is a city known for its sports. More notably — or sometimes notoriously — it’s known for its sports fans. The boisterous crowds backing the Eagles, Flyers, Sixers, Phillies and most recently the Union have earned reputations ranging from passionate to boorish.
But what people may not realize, is how many of those fans are in love with the global game: o jogo bonito, calcio, fútbol, fußball, football, soccer.
As soccer continues its steady growth across the USA, Philadelphia has made a name as one of its main markets. Philadelphians have eyes on leagues all over. They rank high in TV viewership for the Premier League and well beyond it. Its hometown team, the Philadelphia Union, has found recent success in Major League Soccer. That has drawn attention to its manager from Oreland, Jim Curtin, as well as its highly touted development academy and a tenacious style of play which embodies the city’s spirit.
Philadelphia is a soccer town. And that Philadelphia love has shown up in spades at the 2022 World Cup.
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As the World Cup tournament moved to the knockout stages, I met with some Philly fans here in Doha.
Scott Rindos, from Delaware County, told me he sees similarities between World Cup fans and the fervent fan bases from Philadelphia: “Supporters of national teams and local sports teams both feel a sense of immense pride in that the team on the field represents their culture and who they are as a society. When they succeed it feels like the nation or the city succeeds.”
And despite the rivalry many U.S. fans feel toward England — whom they drew 0-0 in the group — Scott told me that England’s fans are the ones that remind him most of Philadelphia:
“They have high confidence in their team and are quite vocal about it, and they are not afraid to hold their team to account for poor results. They also have a swagger about them that can rub other supporters the wrong way.”
Taifa Naeem is from North Philadelphia- near 29th and Jefferson, she says, to be specific- but she lives in Doha now. Naeem’s favorite part of the World Cup experience has been, “Experiencing a sporting event on such an international level, that you don’t know who you will be celebrating with at any given moment from any given country!”
Naeem said she had been impressed by the organization of the event, and how international a sport it truly is. There are fans from all over the world cheering for many different national teams. For example, you’ll see Messi jerseys here on far more fans than just the attending Argentines.
Thinking about Philadelphia’s host city status in 2026, Naeem hopes Philly will show its own international welcome: “It would be wonderful to see Philly include our local and international communities in the festivities to show how we can all be respectful and inclusive while enjoying an international sport.”
Justin Beldyk has been to six matches so far, alongside his cousin Kyle Lawrence, also a Philly native. They’ve seen the USA, Wales, France, Australia, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Canada, Brazil, Serbia and England play. Their favorite part has also been interacting with fans all over the world. They’ve even joined in with their chants and celebrations.
Beldyk flew home last weekend, in time to make it to the Linc for the Eagles versus Packers game. He compared World Cup supporters to Eagles fans that travel to all the away games. In particular, he was reminded of the time the Eagles played in London: “At that time, it was the highest attendance of any London NFL game and the line to get a cheesesteak at Passyunk Ave in London was 4 hours. I was there for that game as well and the atmosphere at the Eagles bar in London, The Admiralty, was amazing.”
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Beldyk felt it’s actually the Welsh, not the English, that remind him most of Philadelphia. (Wrexham FC owner Rob McElhenney will be thrilled to hear it!)
“Out of all the games we went to, the fans from Wales were the most like Philadelphia. They are blue collar, passion mixed with anger, hate when the other team gets injured, and have a way with words for fans of the other team.”
Eric Penney also compared his love of the World Cup to the passion of Eagles fans, saying come 2026, he can’t wait to hear the friendly competition between world football chants and renditions of “Fly Eagles Fly!”. He’s been overwhelmed by how welcoming the hosts have been here, as well as the various fanbases he’s met. That something he’s said will impact how he welcomes the world when they arrive for the next event: “My biases and misconceptions have been mostly nullified. I fee like my experience here will help me be a better host in four years when they come to our home.”
The FIFA World Cup has welcomed Philadelphians whose soccer fandom runs deep, as well as those that are new to the game.
David Moen is a Philadelphia Union season ticket holder, tracing his Union roots all the way back to the start in 2010. Jonathan Magill — originally from Fox Chase — on the other hand, volunteered to come here as a military deployment, supporting Qataris during the preparation and execution of World Cup Operations in their new Air Operations Center.
Moen and Magill are here for different reasons, but each has enjoyed their different encounters with the world famous event.
Magill: “I have never been a soccer fan, but got caught up in the energy and excitement of the World Cup in Qatar. When I volunteered to come out here, I knew the WC was taking place and figured it would be cool to see a game–but certainly didn’t expect to see 3 so far. As a sports fan, excitement is contagious–and the more I started running into fans from all over the world, the more I wanted to be part of that excitement.”
Moen explains he’s enjoyed meetings fans from all over, whether catching games at the Fan Fest, or watching a tense England v USA match alongside Englishmen at his military base.
As a big Philly sports guy, Moen even caught a Phillies World Series game earlier this fall. He sees similarities between sports fans from Philadelphia and World Cup supporters: “Philly sports fans can sometimes get a bad rap…but we are just passionate about our teams and want to see them succeed against all odds. The World Cup is the same way. I saw a group of Saudis celebrating after their win against Argentina. They were the extreme underdogs but pulled it off with an amazing win–reminded me of some of the best moments in Philly sports history. We thrive as underdogs, and there has certainly been plenty of upsets and unexpected wins/draws during this World Cup.”
Now caught up in World Cup fever, Magill is excited for Philadelphia to host: “Philadelphia is 100% the best sports city in the US. We have the most passionate fans, and they will embrace the energy of the World Cup and make it their own.”
David Moen on the other hand, grew up playing soccer. His love of Philadelphia Union feeds off his love of the national team, and vice versa. Having watched Brenden Aaronson rise through the ranks in Philly before departing for Europe, it’s exciting for Moen to watch him make his World Cup debut with Team USA. A highlight for him was watching the United States defeat Iran in a nail-biting, must-win victory that sealed their spot in the Round of 16. Brenden Aaronson played the entire second half of that game, replacing an injured Christian Pulisic.
Moen can’t wait to watch the World Cup in his backyard. “I’m most excited to experience that first World Cup game at the Linc but if all the stars align, maybe even a USA game at the Linc near or on the 4th of July! Nothing could top that!”