For Hamed Abouzied, yesterday's soccer match was more than just exciting plays, lots to eat and two of Arlington's best teams dueling for a league championship.
Amid the cheering, confetti and food-laden fans, Abouzied found a little bit of Egypt.
"I go to the games in Egypt, just like the folks here go to RFK Stadium," said Abouzied, holding his daughter Sarah, 3, bundled in a pink snowsuit. "I'm showing my daughter about our culture here, so when she goes back she won't be surprised that the first game in the country will be soccer."
What brought Abouzied and about 2,000 other people of various nationalities out to an Arlington stadium on a blustery day was the championship game of the American Soccer League of Arlington, a group of amateur soccer players drawn mostly from the county, but from other local jurisdictions as well.
The league plays during the spring and fall, and each game routinely attracts more than 1,000 spectators, county parks officials said. The game yesterday was held in the Wakefield High School Stadium, because regular park fields cannot hold the large crowds, said Lloyd Arvin, who works with sports programs for the county.
During the season, there are 13 teams of 18 players each, with some members from various Latin American countries, Italy and the Middle East, said Fausto Fonseca, league president. Most of the players and spectators are Hispanic, county parks officials said.
For some spectators, the games are more like a festival, an opportunity for young people to promenade and for seniors to visit with friends. Chicken shish-kebabs are smoked on grills, while tacos, nachos and other Latin dishes are sold from a truck.
Yesterday, groups of teenage girls in the newest fashions strolled past young men huddled together with coat collars upturned. While hundreds of spectators applauded good plays with the thundering of feet on metal bleachers, families lolled on grassy hillsides near the playing field.
Arlington police estimated that more than 1,000 children attended the game yesterday, playing under the bleachers and running through the stands.
For many spectators, the games provide an opportunity for occasional family reunions.
"We meet our relatives who we don't see in the week," said Helen Velasquez, who was born in El Salvador. "It's the only way we see them."
Manuel Bermudez, 10, said he attended the game with three uncles, and "a lot of my aunts are here and my cousins." He said that generally, the women sit together and talk, separate from the men. "We come out every Sunday."
Abouzied attended the game with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law to watch his cousin, also from Egypt, play. "He's the only one not from South America," Abouzied said.
Not all the fans are there to see family. Some actually watch the game.
"We're just waiting to see who's going to win," said Juan Martinez, 24, who stood near a fence with two friends. He said his family didn't attend because, "my mom doesn't want to come here. She doesn't like this stuff, so she stays home."