NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — The most watched match in this year’s World Cup tournament, according to the Nielsen television ratings service, was Sunday evening’s contest between Team USA and Portugal. Both teams’ fans show their true colors in the Ironbound section of Newark, where U.S. and Portuguese flags fly side by side, as the tournament continues, with both teams’ hopes alive.
Newark, however, is by no means the only location in New Jersey where soccer and its loyalties and rivalries are big.
“It’s mind boggling that someone could do that from North Brunswick,” said Nicola Aloya, a student at North Brunswick Township High School. The Central New Jersey school held its graduation in the Sun National Bank Center Arena, in Trenton, rather than at the school.
Aloya was among many people at the ceremony Monday afternoon talking about another student, who wore his cap and gown 17 years ago, but is now on a figure on the world stage. Everybody seemed to be using the same words to describe him.
“The fact that he came from North Brunswick is mind boggling,” said graduating senior Christian Collado.
Team USA goalkeeper and fellow North Brunswick alumnus Tim Howard’s heroics helped to ensure that the match against Portugal was a draw. Howard has also been a major factor in keeping the United States in contention for the World Cup. He’s a Jersey boy at heart who’s done well on a worldwide scale, according to people who have known him for most of his life.
“My kids played soccer at North Brunswick with Tim Howard,” said North Brunswick principal Pete Clark, “So we’re very proud of him.”
“He was a good student athlete,” Clark told PIX11 News, “and he was also a very good basketball player. And also as a soccer player, he would do anything for the team.”
Clark added that Howard still helps his team. The goalie for the English soccer team Everton is considered one of the best players in the world at his position. He also has Tourette’s Syndrome, and has worked actively to raise money for research and treatment of that neurological condition.
New Jersey’s presence is further felt at the World Cup through its only American referee. Mark Geiger has won strong approval for being accurate and fair on the field. He’s also won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Math and Science. Geiger is a master instructor at Lacey Township High School, on the Jersey Shore.
Farther north in the Garden State is Newark’s Ironbound section. It may be the only place in the world where every street is dotted with homes flying both American flags and Portuguese flags. It’s also almost certainly the only place where comments are heard like the one made by resident Nuno Francisco.
“[I’m] Portuguese rooted, American grown,” he said to PIX11 News as he held his toddler son, who was sporting a Team Portugal jersey. Regarding the result of the USA-Portugal match, Francisco said that he was cheering for Portugal, the underdog, but that he was pleased with the 2-2 draw.
“[I’m] happy that it was what it was,” he said. “Both teams still have a shot.”