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World Cup fever hits SK

In at least one household in South Kitsap, football does not mean football — it means soccer.

And for the past few weeks, it has meant soccer in a very serious way.

For those who don’t follow the sport, or haven’t turned on their TV at all month, this is World Cup time, and Seth Jackson’s home in Manchester has become tournament central.

“We’re soccer nuts,” Jackson admitted, sitting in one of the rows of chairs lined up in front of his large-screen TV, which is equipped with a satellite dish and several large speakers that blanket the living room.

During some of the matches this month, as many as 15 people have filled Jackson’s home, where he not only displays large flags representing the countries battling in each match, but also cooks up foods from each nation with his wife Aly .

Last Friday, however, the crowd had shrunk to a mere three, a shrinkage Seth said did not surprise him at all given that the United States had been knocked out of the tournament the day before.

So, with only two faithful fans — recent SKHS grads Kellen Abel and Bobby Sink — in appearance for the afternoon match between Switzerland and Korea, Jackson decided to forgo serving the previously advertised swiss steak, Korean-style barbecued beef (pul goki) and spicy pickled cabbage (kim chee) for a decidedly more American dish.

“We ordered pizza,” he laughed, explaining that most of the group declared a dislike for the Korean staple kim chee anyway.

Most of the other international dishes he and his wife cooked up got a much better reception, however. A particular favorite was the “Czechoslavakia Pastry Bars” they served when the Americans took on the Czech Republic June 12.

“Luckily, those were the easiest things we made that day, so it wasn’t too hard to make more,” Jackson said, explaining that they found most of the ingredients for what they cooked at either Costco or local grocery stores, and went to the Internet or their neighbor’s house for the recipes.

In fact, he said the exotic foods proved so popular that they asked guests to take home much of the sandwich fixings they offered each day in case there were “wimps” who didn’t want try something new.

Jackson, a firefighter for the City of Bremerton, said his odd work schedule allowed him to watch many of the games that often start at 9 a.m. or noon, while his two guests said they had all the time in the world to hang out now that it was summer vacation.

And while the teens admitted that the free food and video games were certainly part of why they were camped out in front of the TV on a sunny afternoon, Jackson said for him it is all about the soccer.

“It’s a great sport — it’s fun to play and fun to watch,” he said, admitting that while he never felt he had the talent to play professionally, he has been coaching locally for more than decade.

“I started when I was 17, and my dad told me there was some teams in the South Kitsap Soccer Club who wouldn’t be able to play because they didn’t have enough coaches,” he said, explaining that he never had aspirations to coach, but stayed with the club ever since because the games are more about fun and exercise than competition.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed rooting for the U.S. team or yelling at the referees these past few weeks.

“It’s great to watch the other teams and see how they play,” he said, adding that he felt the Americans didn’t lose this year because they weren’t good players, but that they just didn’t seem to have the same desire to win that he could see in the other teams.

Abel and Sink agreed, and said they felt there was a lack of excitement in general about soccer amongst Americans, a feeling they totally disagreed with.

“They say, ‘How can you sit there for two hours when you only see one goal?’” Abel said. “But I say it’s the fact that there is only one goal that makes it so much more exciting.”

Jackson agreed, explaining that it was the buildup to the goals, and the dynamics of each attempt that made the game worth watching.

When asked if he was going to host such an event during the next World Cup tournament, Jackson said “sure, since they’re only every four years, we figured we could indulge ourselves. It might be different, however, if it was every year.”

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