U.S. men’s soccer team pays visit to Landstuhl, Ramstein
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — In Kaiserslautern for its upcoming game Wednesday night, the U.S. men’s national soccer team met with troops Monday morning at two U.S. military installations.
About half of the roughly 20-man team visited wounded troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, while the rest of the squad signed autographs and posed for photos with dozens of fans at Ramstein Air Base’s enlisted club.
More than 350 fans — some of them lining up more than an hour before the team arrived — came to meet and greet players at the base’s “E” club. The U.S. team will face Poland on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Kaiserslautern’s Fritz-Walter Stadium in what will be a warm-up match before this June’s World Cup in Germany.
Carol Long and her daughter, Shannon, wore matching uniforms with midfielder Landon Donovan’s name and number. Shannon Long plays soccer for both Ramstein American High School and a German squad. The 15-year-old got out of school for part of the day to meet the players.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Carol Long said.
Players broke up into two rooms to meet fans. The team planned to stay only about an hour but ended up staying longer because of the number of people who showed up to get everything from soccer balls to T-shirts autographed.
Donovan, considered one of the team’s best players at 23 years old, was surprised by how many people said they would come out for the Poland match and the World Cup.
“Everybody that came here said they have tickets and everybody they knew had tickets and they’re going to be cheering for us,” he said. “Not only that, but when we play here in June, it could be a massive event for us.”
The team, which arrived Sunday, is staying at Ramstein Air Base this week. Donovan said he was surprised at how Americanized the base is.
“We went bowling last night,” he said. “You walk inside and you think you’re in America.”
At Landstuhl, team members along with coach Bruce Arena toured the hospital’s intensive care unit and several wards housing wounded and sick troops.
Senior Airman Anthony DiFlorio, who was being treated at Landstuhl for heart disease, chatted with several of the soccer players.
“It builds up a lot of morale with me and the other guys,” DiFlorio said. “I’m just passing through. Hopefully, I’m going home soon. These other guys, who are in a lot worse shape than me, it’s good for them to see some faces.
“Between (the soccer players) coming over and the different commanders coming through each of the wards, it’s really cool.”
Team member Chris Klein said the men and women of the military are heroes to the team.
“Every time we step on the field and listen to the national anthem, it gives us a feeling of pride,” Klein said. “The only reason that that is possible is because of the men and women here who put their lives on the line so we can look at the flag, have pride and understand what it represents.”
Tickets are still available for Wednesday night’s game. Prices range from 15 to 125 euros.
Log on to www.ussoccer.com or www.fck.de/usa-poland.phpCall 01-805-3188-00 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Wednesday)Visit FCK fan shops, or go to Fritz-Walter Stadion (Stadium) ticket office (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday).From staff reports