World Cup craze, culture, takes over Dubh Linn's

Since the FIFA World Cup started on June 12, Duluth's Dubh Linn Irish Pub has shown each and every game that has been played, and a couple loyal soccer fans have gone above and beyond to show their dedication for the sport. Kandi Geary and Matt Helbacka have attended nearly every game so far, and although they don't attend the games together so-to-speak, they both have a passion for the sport and everything that goes along with it.

"I love the World Cup," Geary said. 'It's my favorite sporting event in the world."

"For a lot of us, this is a huge deal," Helbacka said. "This is the Super Bowl times ten."

Helbacka has watched his favorite team, Arsenal, play in the EPL every week for the last 15 years, but he became a true soccer fan in Italy during the 2004 EuroCup.

"I was in a bar in Rome to see Italy versus Germany," Helbacka said. "That'll change your life. You see exactly how the rest of the world views this game, and it's not about national pride anymore; This is their life. So for me, I just love that every time I come here, there's 40 other people who are just as passionate as I am."

Like Helbacka, Geary says the passion that fans have for the game is what makes the World Cup such a special event.

Geary has not missed a minute of World Cup soccer so far this year. Yet she knew next to nothing about her favorite sport until her son introduced it to her.

"I basically had no idea what soccer was, except that we had a soccer ball that my son and I kicked around in the backyard, until he was in first grade and came home from school and wanted to play," she said.

Since then, two of Geary's three children played soccer at the collegiate level, and she has attended three World Cup competitions, with plans for a fourth in 2015. The Women's World Cup is hosted by Canada next year.

Having been at Dubh Linn's everyday for over two weeks straight, Geary has met people from all over the world.

"I spent two days, which was five games, watching with a family from Chile," said Geary. "One day we had just seven of us here, and there were two people from the United States." She said some of the countries represented were Holland, Ireland and Dakar.

"It's a beautiful game because it brings the world together, and I love sharing the experience with other people," she added.

Geary watched the 2010 World Cup at Dubh Linn's and said that the hospitality at the Superior Street venue is some of the best around.

"Dubh Linn's has opened up this place with the best hospitality," she said. "I watched the last World Cup here too, four years ago, and those games were sometimes six in the morning and this place would be open with a full menu and full wait staff."

Helbacka used to go to Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake to watch soccer, but was excited to check out Dubh Linn's three projector screens this year.

"This is the first time that a bar has actually taken the time to open their doors and be there for people who want to freak out," he said. "It's just awesome."

And while projector screens and drink specials add to the experience, according to Geary, the true draw of the World Cup is the culture and passion that are on display during the competition.

"You don't have to love this sport to love the World Cup," she said. "It brings people together."

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