Four years ago in South Africa, the United States celebrated what was arguably its biggest moment in international soccer as Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria spurred the Americans into the knockout rounds and won their group.
Half a world away in Statesboro, hundreds of fans erupted into a crazy scene while taking in the game at Carmike Cinemas.
When the Stars and Stripes hit the pitch for their first game of the 2014 World Cup Monday night, Carmike will once again open its doors to fans looking to cheer on the national squad.
“We’re going to be doing things similar to our Monday Night Football showings,” Carmike manager Tiffany Hedrick said. “Everyone is welcome to come watch the USA games, free of charge, in our café. We’ll also have food and beer specials running for those games.”
The United States’ first group stage game is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. against Ghana — the side that has escorted the Americans out of its last two World Cups. Nothing gets easier following the opener as the “Group of Death” sees Portugal (ranked 4th in the FIFA world standings) and Germany (ranked 2nd) on the schedule.
It won’t be an easy road for the Americans if they want a second consecutive trip to the knockout rounds, but there is no doubt that there will be plenty supporting them here in town.
Cheri Wagner — mother of SHS soccer standout Alex Wagner — was impressed by Carmike’s ability to pack the house four years ago. Wagner reached out to Hedrick to see if it would be possible to provide another mass viewing event this time around.
“People really seemed to enjoy themselves the last time we did this,” Hedrick said. “I know that there are a few teams playing games in town this week that might come as a big group. It should be a fun time for everyone involved.”
“Watching games with a large group always seems to make things more exciting,” Wagner said. “I’m glad that Tiffany and the theater have offered to provide for that. I think it will make for a great atmosphere for any fan to be able to watch the games on the big screen in that type of environment.”
While Carmike welcomes all fans, getting out to the theater early will help anyone looking for a good seat. The theater had to turn away some fans do to massive turnouts four years ago when games typically began before noon. This time around, two of the United States’ group stage games are scheduled for 6 p.m., making even bigger demand for seating a possibility.
“I think that this year sets up great for fans,” Hedrick said. “You can go to work and then come out here to watch the game and get some dinner. That’s what we’d love to see — a room full of fans having a great time and cheering on the team.”
Future screenings of sports events at Carmike will make for an even better time for viewers as the theater prepares for renovations.
“We’re going to be doing a complete remodeling of the café,” Hedrick said. “We’ll be doing new seats and new carpeting as well as new wallpaper and improvements to bathrooms.”
The beginning of construction is scheduled for this week, but Hedrick stated that every effort will be made to improve facilities while also making USA soccer available on the big screen for all fans wishing to come out and cheer on their country.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.