Chanting, singing, sign-waving Cosmos and Fort Lauderdale Striker fans invaded RFK Stadium by the thousands yesterday for a sun-and-beer-drenched soccer spectacle as Soccer Bowl 80 came to the nation's capital.
Leading a nine-bus caravan of Cosmos fans from New York and Northern New Jersey was Dee Bohlin, a school nurse from Tenafly, N.J., and president of the Cosmos Headers, the teams's official fan club. "This is terrific. I've been here since Thursday. I went to the banquet and the commissioner's reception. There's nothing like it," said Bohlin.
Wearing the yellow T-shirt uniform of the fan club, Bohlin was out early at the stadium yesterday, distribuuting Cosmos buttons and confetti to any and all takers. "I've been a Cosmos fan for three years," said Bohlin. "We go to all the home games and the nearby away games -- Washington, Philadelphia, New England."
Soccer is taken seriously in Cosmos country, Bohlin said, to the point where Cosmos fan clubs award college scholarships each year to promising high school soccer players. This year her organization awarded $1,100 to four players, she said.
As Bohlin spoke, Andre Patinella, the self-designated unofficial cheerleader of the Cosmos, climbed on his chair at field level at the stadium and led the fan club in song.
"We gonna win the bowl. We gonna win the bowl. Now you gotta believe us.
We gonna win the bowl."
Leading a delegation of Striker fans in a flag-waving, chanting parade around the stadium was John Schwartzman of Fort Lauderdale, one of about 150 Florida fans who paid $330 for a charter flight and hotel accommodations to attend Soccer Bowl 80.
"Worth every penny and more," said Schwartzman, waving a red, black and gold Striker flag and holding up his index finger, indicating that his team was No. 1 in his heart, if not on the field.
"It sure is," said Don Mendez, another Striker fan who made the charter flight. "We got here yesterday and we've been partying all night."
Carrying an empty beer bottle in a tin pan, Mendez was dancing to the Latin style beat of a set of timbales drums played by Mark Zatorsky, another Striker fan. "No. 1. No. 1. No. 1.," chanted Mendez. The crowd of 50,768 was short of the sellout hoped for, but what it lacked in numbers it made up for enthusiasm.
George Bush, Republican vice presidential candidate, was on hand with an entourage of 17 Secret Service agents.
Soccer great Pele was greeted by chants of "Pele! Pele! Pele!" as he walked through the stands.
By far the largest contingent of fans yesterday was in the Cosmos camp, and not all were from the New York area. Kurt Wise, 11, of Arlington, was on hand early with a Cosmos flag to cheer his team on.
"We're going to cream 'em," said Kurt, who plays youth soccer in Arlington.
"We sure are," chimed in Anthony Napolitano of Brooklyn, who drove down yesterday morning with a friend, Dino Giusto, for the match.
"We live in a nice old Italian neighborhood," said Giusto. "Giorgio Chinaglia is very big where we are from. Very big."
Neptlitano and Giusto were carrying a banner written in Italian that proclaimed "Forza Giogio."
"It means power to Giorgio," said Nepalitano. "He is the greatest. The Cosmos are the greatest."
Yesterday, in Soccer Bowl 80, they certainly were.