The World Cup has ended but soccer enthusiasm remains strong in Baltimore.
Even after European Cup champion Inter Milan beat Manchester City at M&T Bank Stadium last month, the 6th Annual Mayors Cup tournament proves a big draw for Baltimore area soccer fans this weekend.
Teams such countries as Cameroon, Nigeria, Iran, Greece, South Korea and Jamaica met for the two-day even that ends today at Poly/Western High School on Cold Spring Lane .
On the sidelines, Antoine Akinbinu, 19, a junior soccer player at Stevenson University, was kicking the ball around with his Niger Republic teammates. The Prince George's County native said most of the players are from the countries they represent but he had an opportunity to play with the team before heading back to school in the fall.
"There are people from everywhere. It's a great learning experience," he said, as well as good competition. He said his team won their first two games and would go on to play in the finals today.
"Tomorrow the big boys come out," he said. As for the crowds, he said "wow — hopefully soccer will keep continuing to grow."
Tony Tabe, 21, a student at Lincoln College of Technology in Columbia, who played in last year's tournament, said the "crowds are better this year." The forward said he began playing soccer in Cameroon when he was 4.
Interest in the sport seems to be increasing, he said, adding that the tournament is "more competitive."
Tom Greene and his children, Grant, 8, and Hannah, 10, said this was their first year watching the tournament. Greene said that there wasn't much interest in soccer when he was growing up but now, Grant and Hannah play on soccer teams.
"We came for the soccer, so it's pretty good," he said, adding that even though the tournament is in its sixth year, he'd never heard of it before. "Like anything else, the city has to market themselves better."
The weekend event not only offered competitive soccer, but the site was also the location for the International Festival, where fans could watch a live show or grab Jamaican cuisine, or an egg custard snowball.
Today, attendees can watch an African Dance Drummer Group, Filipino Dancers, salsa dancing and other performances or watch soccer teams play on one of the three fields.
"I come to it every year," said Carol Morris, 27, of Harrisburg, Pa., who came with her friend Donald Shaw, 43. They both said they played soccer when they were younger and now their children play. She said that the event has grown since she came the first year.
"We need to get here earlier," she told Shaw, noting all the games she had already missed.