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Football fever conquers the “baseball” city of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, birthplace of the United States and one of the host cities of the 2016 Copa América, surrenders to soccer and prepares to welcome thousands of fans while unleashing soccer fever among its citizens.
More than 75,000 fans will come to the city in the coming days to attend the championship, which will arrive in Philadelphia this Thursday, according to data provided to Efe by the local convention and visitors office.
What is known in the United States as “soccer” has in recent years made its way into territory traditionally dominated by baseball, basketball, hockey and American football.
The proof is that it has been decided that the Copa América, in its special edition for the centenary of the tournament, will be played in this country.
The confrontation between Uruguay and Venezuela will be the first of the three to be played in Philadelphia, followed by the United States-Paraguay, scheduled for Saturday, and Chile-Panama for Tuesday of next week.
As it is the first time that the Copa América has been played outside of Latin America, the expectation is maximum among the 55 million Hispanics who reside in the United States and in particular in Philadelphia, where 13.3 percent of the population is of Latin origin. .
Massive free events will welcome fans, with live music, raffles and contests, food stalls and tournament souvenir shops warming up five hours before kick-off at the dubbed “Fan Headquarters”, on the banks of the Delaware River.
Tourism is one of the main sources of income for Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the country, which received nearly 40 million visitors last year and has increased hotel occupancy by 284 percent in two decades.
Hotel reservations have skyrocketed with the Copa América and occupancy is practically total, sources from Philadelphia tourism confirmed to Efe
“An increasingly respected US team” and “the opportunity to see high-level international players” arouse great interest in the city, the head of linguistic accessibility programs at the Immigration Affairs office, Orlando Almonte, told Efe.
Aware of this late football craze, Philadelphia has launched a Copa America-inspired “soccer” championship, the personal idea of ​​the city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, whose pro-immigration and diversity proposals have been the foundation of his policies ever since. took command of the local government in January.
In cooperation with the city’s Office of Immigration Affairs and the Department of Parks and Entertainment, Philadelphia has organized a non-professional soccer cup among its neighbors with teams made up of people from the same country.
The objective is “to make the communities feel integrated” within “the diversity of the city,” the head of Recreational Activities in Philadelphia, Bill Salvatore, explained to Efe.
With representation from all continents, 32 teams will participate in this fun tournament around which other cultural activities will be held, such as dance, music and gastronomy.
«The ‘soccer’ was already a big thing everywhere, the United States had to catch up. In Philadelphia, the community was already playing, the city has only made it clear, ”the deputy director of the Immigration Affairs office, Hani White, explained to Efe.
Conquered Philadelphia, which was the first capital of the United States, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the country were debated and signed, it can be said that soccer fever has come to the country to stay. EFE

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