Babson brothers bask in soccer glory in Brazil
Luke and Max Babson had just won the "lottery," in their beloved NE Portland home at the time and were about to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime moment. The Babson brothers and best-of-friends, couldn't have been any happier for their "luck of the draw."
"We got tickets to the USA vs. Ghana game, through the FIFA ticketing lottery," Luke, 29, who graduated from Barlow in 2003 and is now an assistant under his former high school coach Steve Ancheta with the womens soccer team at Western Oregon University.
The eldest Babson used to pick his coaches mind all the time, with the intent, though he didn't know at the time, that he would one day give back to the sport that he cherished so much and take over as a coach, once his playing days were over.
Max added, "When we found out we got tickets to the USA vs. Ghana game, we were elated," says the 25-year-old UO journalism grad. "The demand for (tickets to this game) was huge. So we were just really lucky to get them in the FIFA ticket lottery a couple of months ago."
Winning tickets or not, the two brothers had made a pact, that they were going regardless, and if going to Brazil was the cake, then attending the game was the icing.
"We were still planning on going to Brazil even if we didn't get tickets, but attending that game was a dream come true. A bucket list item for sure. I don't know if I will ever go to a game that means as much to me ever again," Max says.
The two former Bruin soccer players and self proclaimed "soccer junkies" weren't about to pass up on this good fortune to be in attendance, to watch their beloved Yanks play on the pitch during the FIFA World Cup.
"The trip has been worth every penny for sure," Luke says. "The most expensive part was the flight (around $1,400 a piece), but lodging and food has actually turned out to be cheaper than I expected."
According to the elder brother, about a year or so ago, the two brother's sat down, while living together in NE Portland and seriously pondered the idea of traveling more than 6,000 miles to witness their favorite sport on its biggest stage.
Ironically enough, Luke's favorite player, Clint Dempsey, a 6-1, 170-pound forward from Nacogdoches, Texas, who plays for the Seattle Sounders scored the first goal of the game within a minute of the whistle blowing, creating the fifth fastest goal recorded in FIFA World Cup history.
"Dempsey is my favorite player of all-time, It was very cool to see him score 30-seconds into the match," Luke Babson says, who also coaches the Eastside Timbers 15U boys club in Portland. "Realistically it will be very difficult for this US team to make it far in this World Cup, but anything is possible and I believe we are rapidly improving as a soccer nation."
The US team did leave that day with a 2-1 win over Ghana on a goal by defender John Brooks in the 87th minute a goal that would help vault the squad into the knockout stage where it would lose to Belgium in extra time.
"Everyone stayed at the stadium singing and chanting and celebrating for a while, Luke says. Both Max and I lost our voices from so much yelling and singing, when John Brooks scored. Everyone just threw their water and beers into the air and I was soaked, but I've never been happier to get all wet and sticky. It was absolute hysteria when the USA scored the game winning goal. The stadium was full with almost all USA fans and we all lost our minds.
I couldn't speak at all the next day, Max says. There were like a thousand screaming, singing Yanks for like three-hours before the match and then we all marched to the stadium together, (it was a) really special moment."
Max is a production assistant with beIn Sports a network based in Miami that deals mostly with soccer coverage.
According to travel agents, tourist like the Babson's, were two of the estimated 150,000 people from the US, traveling to Brazil for the games. Their great family friend and Portland native, Tory Tripp, also made the trip with them. She's a 2005 graduate of Grant High, where she helped the Generals win three-consecutive city championships. She went onto play four-years of soccer for the University of Pennsyvania, and studied abroad in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup.
Asked if the brother's could put this experience into words? They quickly responded.
"I would rank this experience as one of the most special moments in my life," Max says. "Everyone is Brazil has been incredible, warm and friendly. Our first day in Recife, we were able to jump right in and play pick-up with the locals and made some great friends, that offered to drive us around the city and showed us a bunch of great spots (in the area)."