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U.S. Women's World Cup Supporters Become A Sensation Of Their Own In France


The U.S. women's soccer team is back in action tomorrow in Paris. They'll be taking on France in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. has won all four of its games so far, and their fans have been with them every step of the way. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports the U.S. supporters have become a sensation of their own in France.



ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Everywhere the U.S. team has played, its loyal fans have followed, filling stadiums and streaming into little French towns decked out in jerseys, flags and paraphernalia. And so it was this week in the eastern city of Reims, a town known more for champagne than soccer.

CATHERINE BERNIER: So we are here 12 meters below the ground, which is about 40 feet. And you can already feel the cold.

BEARDSLEY: That's Catherine Bernier leading a group of Americans on a tour of the underground cellars of champagne house Taittinger. Bernier says they were caught off guard two weeks ago when tens of thousands of U.S. fans poured into Reims for the Thailand game. But now they're ready with more English-language tours, and Bernier's become a fan.

BERNIER: If the American team wins tonight...


BEARDSLEY: Christine Zavesky is here from San Francisco. She says French people have been yelling USA when they see them in their jerseys.

CHRISTINE ZAVESKY: I think that the energy here has been awesome. France has been a really cool place to host. And we've been to matches in Paris, Nice and now Reims. And so I think I said that right but...

BEARDSLEY: As they tour the champagne houses and visit the famous Gothic cathedral, the only problem these American fans have faced so far is how to pronounce the name of this host city. Thirteen-year-olds Nina Corso and Aven Amador talk about their favorite players before they give it a try.

NINA CORSO: Alex Morgan.

AVEN AMADOR: Tobin Heath. Reems (ph)? Like Rech (ph).

BEARDSLEY: Vitalie Taittinger, who's head of marketing for the champagne house founded by her great grandfather, says pronunciation doesn't matter a bit.

VITALIE TAITTINGER: It's an honor for us to welcome Americans. We are very happy. It's a party. So welcome to Reims.

BEARDSLEY: In the tourist office, Cecile Depresles says all the hotels and restaurants are full. But she says the American fans bring more than business to Reims.

CECILE DEPRESLES: Personally, I'm surprised by the spirit. It's really, really with heart. Many visitors coming from the U.S. say coming here, especially for the World Cup of football, it's really crazy for us because, in France, I think we don't have really this spirit. And we support our team of football, but it's not really with the same force.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) Allez Le Bleus.

BEARDSLEY: But thousands of fervent French fans did cheer on their team at the Paris fan zone this week as Les Bleus beat Brazil 2-1 in overtime. Parisian Danny Diambaka was among them. He says that American spirit is catching on to his shoulder.

DANNY DIAMBAKA: (Through translator) I've seen the chanting and euphoria of the U.S. fans at the stadium and in the metro. It's incredible. But it's building now for the French team, too. And people are getting into women's soccer. There are a lot of men here. That means this is something that's interesting everyone. And that's important for France.

BEARDSLEY: All these passionate French and American fans will come together at the sold-out game tomorrow night in Paris to watch their teams battle it out for a berth in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.