Copa America California style retains a flavor of South America

Sat Jun 4, 2016 12:24am EDT
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By Rory Carroll

SANTA CLARA, California (Reuters) - The United States might having been hosting Copa America for the first time but a legion of Colombia fans brought a distinct flavor of South America to a sweltering Levi's Stadium for the tournament opener on Friday.

Throngs of yellow-shirted fans partied in the parking lot well before kickoff, belting out salsa music in tribute to the country where the Cali strain of the rhythmic musical style originated.

U.S. fans were there in numbers too, of course.

Decked out in the colors of the "Old Glory" flag and downing beers over smoky barbecues, they chanted "When the Yanks go marching in!" as they approached the stadium in temperatures well above 90 degrees fahrenheit (32 Celsius).

Although many of the Colombia fans had traveled up from their homeland, some, like Santiago Velez, were born in the U.S.

Sporting the yellow jersey of Los Cafetero, Velez was in the parking lot demonstrating the "Soccer Sidekick".

Velez feels strongly about how young soccer players are developed and hopes the training tool, which is made by a company he manages, will help bring on a more skilful generation of players.

The 23-year-old said he could not support Team USA until the country improved its approach to training young players, putting less emphasis on winning and more on the fundamentals of the game.   Continued...

A general view of signage prior to the match between the United States and the Colombia during the group play stage of the 2016 Copa America Centenario at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports