To understand the magnitude of the World Cup you need only to measure the level of fascination with this blend of ryegrass and Kentucky blue, which has attracted media ranging from Thailand's Channel 5 to Plastics News. And on June 18, when the U.S. plays on this turf against Switzerland, the event will indeed mark a huge technological advance: the first indoor World Cup match. By dividing the field into 1,850 hexagonal slabs, each weighing 3,000 pounds, the turf-grass engineers at Michigan State, with a team of 30 workers, expect to move the grass from the parking lot into the dome in 30 hours.
In anticipation of yet more press, the engineers have even undergone interview training. Says project head Trey Rogers, "More people are going to hear about Michigan State University from this project alone than from a combination of every project in the history of the school. And Michigan State is something like 138 years old."
Washington, D.C.: The Straight Ticket
A recent ad from "Personals Plus" in The Washington Post: "SWF ISO SWM w/World Cup tickets. Sporty type ISO indoor & outdoor fun!"
With 3.6 million tickets available—one third allotted internationally, two thirds to the host nation—the U.S. will probably have the best-attended Cup ever. But because some of the 36 first-round matches involve teams with small followings, brokers will doubtless be In Search Of buyers. However, the June 29 game between Belgium and Saudi Arabia at RFK Stadium may be a scalpers' bonanza, given the passion and deep pockets of the Saudis, whose team has qualified for the first time. Word is that the players each received a $100,000 bonus and a Mercedes for making it to the World Cup.
"People love to talk about these things," says Osama Nugali, director of the information office at the Saudi embassy, "but it is an exaggeration." One Cup official demurs. "Believe it," he says.
Boston: The Bolivian Connection
Fall River, Mass. (pop. 92,574), situated an hour south of Boston, has a rich soccer history that includes the first U.S. league, founded there in 1885, and native son Billy (Piano Legs) Gonsalves, a renowned center half for the U.S. in the 1930s. The tradition has been perpetuated by a citizenship with deep Portuguese roots that was crushed when Portugal failed to qualify for the Cup. But the good folk of Fall River rallied, and after the draw, they set their sights on hosting a team scheduled to play at least one game 40 miles up the road, at Foxboro Stadium. So they lured the Bolivians—they will play South Korea on June 23—in for an inspection visit.
They plastered WELCOME BOLIVIA signs in the locker rooms and the chancellor's office of UMass-Dartmouth, where the team could train and stay. They dispatched a campus police cruiser to make sure a Bolivian liaison caught his flight home. They argued that if the Bolivians stayed in Chicago, where they will play twice, they would be overshadowed there by the Germans. And they helped defray the Bolivians' travel costs by raising $25,000 in two days.
Fall Riverites wooed Bolivia because it was good for the city; they won the Bolivians' hearts because of their devotion to soccer. Businessmen talk of taking "a leave of absence" from the family on Sunday to watch games televised from Holland, Spain and, natch, Portugal. "Soccer is not a pastime, it is a true sport," says Frank Cabral, president of the local Portuguese Business Association. "If someone asks me to get up during the game and go for a beer, I say, 'You're crazy.' I'm going to punch him. This is not like baseball. The World Series! How can it be a World Series? There is only one country playing!"