Beautiful game hits fever pitch in the USA

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The Independent Culture

The first time Steve Singer saw Goal!, Ross Devenish and Abidin Dino's film about the 1966 World Cup, it was the year it came out. "I thought it was a great film, but the sport didn't really mean that much to me," he explains.

Since then Springer, now 66, has both fallen in love with football and watched the film twice more, most recently as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Soccer Fever! programme, which over the past week has celebrated the start of the 2010 World Cup with a series of football films, including Douglas Gordon's acclaimed Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait and the 2006 Maradona documentary, Maradona: the Golden Kid.

And he's not alone. Football, and the World Cup in particular, is increasingly big news in New York. From the bars showing games to delis advertising the upcoming competition and the growing number of US children wearing the national shirt it's clear that the days are long gone when the mention of the World Cup elicited only a bemused shrug.

The mini-film festival itself drew an eclectic crowd. The Zidane film, already a success when it first screened at BAM, sold the most tickets, says the curator Jeff Perlin, but all from the smallest (the sweet-natured France Here We Come!, which follows a group of Austrian fans at the 1998 World Cup) to the most powerful (Fahrenheit 2010, which casts a critical eye on the competition's real effect on South Africa), have had their fans.

While for some the films shown were purely an interesting window on the world's sport, for others there is a wider resonance. Yakov Keiserman first saw Goal! as a young man in Russia. "I've come today for nostalgic reasons," he says. "I remember the 1966 World Cup not just because of England's victory but because the Soviet Union finished fourth. It's interesting to me how much the game has changed and how much the world has, too."

Who will he support given that his home country Ukraine failed to qualify? Keiserman laughs. "Oh America, of course, after that who knows?"