Snowball's chance? D.C. pals' goal: turn Dupont Circle into World Cup fan fest

District residents Michael Lipin, left, and Aaron DeNu in Dupont Circle, where they hope hold a public viewing of World Cup games.
District residents Michael Lipin, left, and Aaron DeNu in Dupont Circle, where they hope hold a public viewing of World Cup games. (Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)
By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One of the creators of the internationally known and celebrated Dupont Circle snowball fight is working on bringing another event to the area: Soccer in the Circle.

This time, snowballer Michael Lipin, 32, has teamed with friend and fellow soccer fanatic Aaron DeNu. Their goal is to show at least the U.S. vs. England opening match of the FIFA 2010 World Cup on giant screens in Dupont Circle on June 12. But many obstacles remain. They aim to raise $20,000 to finance the one-day screening. If they can raise more money, there could be more matches, they said.

They also need the permits to come through by kick-off on June 11. Not only do they need one from the National Park Service -- which has already sent Lipin a bill for two security officers for the event -- they need a FIFA public-viewing permit.

ESPN, which holds the broadcasting rights, must give its consent for approval.

"There is a chance they will be denied a permit. And there is equally a chance they'll be handed a permit. Either way, it will be a collaborative decision-making process by FIFA and ESPN programmers," Mac Nwulu, an ESPN spokesman, said in a statement.

There are 64 requests for public viewings in the United States.

DeNu and Lipin envision a fan festival that rivals those in Europe and South America with two giant screens erected on the edge of the park, showing the games to D.C.-area fans. The grassy areas will be packed with families and friends reveling in the spirit of the games. The South African Embassy, the games' host nation, will give away loot, and three-time World Cup player and local soccer legend Eddie Pope will speak.

"This is something that is done throughout the world," Lipin said, listing FIFA-sponsored Fan Fests in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin and Paris. "Given the fact that FIFA isn't doing it [in America], that means other people have to."

DeNu, 31, had considered getting a fan festival started on the Mall, but it was already booked. Thanks to the snowball fights, Lipin now had friends in the Advisory Neighborhood Commission who wanted to do more in the park. Dupont Festival: Soccer in the Circle was on.

"D.C. is such a perfect place to do it," said DeNu, who pointed out how close the White House and international communities are to the park. "There certainly is a soccer culture in D.C. Obviously, with D.C. United being here, one of the most storied teams in soccer, that has a [lot] to do with it."

Tebogo Kola, first secretary of social and economic development for the South African Embassy, said his contacts in South Africa are touching base with FIFA to expedite the permit application. The South African Embassy supports Soccer in the Circle, which adds clout to their application.

Kola said his country is abuzz, preparing for the international competition.

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