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Dec. 14, 2006

Hunt's most memorable soccer moments


When he was asked to talk about his most memorable soccer experience several years ago, Lamar Hunt couldn’t give just one.

So, he came up with a top 10 list:

* Seeing one of Pele's greatest games, the 1970 World Cup final (Italy vs. Brazil).

* Meeting Pele with his wife Norma and son Clark in 1974. Clark was about nine- years-old and Hunt can still remember the look on his face when Pele put a No. 10 jersey into his hands.

* Attending eight World Cup finals. Norma came along for six of them and a number of his children have attended others.

* Seeing both World Cup semifinals on the same day at Spain 1982. Lamar, Norma, Clark, and another couple and their children started the day in Pamplona. They had spent the two previous nights there. At 7 a.m. there was the "Running of the Bulls." Hunt didn't run, but two of his friends did. In the afternoon, they attended at the semifinal in Barcelona. At night, they watched the semifinal in Seville, the famous Germany vs. France match. They had a small charter plane with more luggage and people than the fire marshal would have allowed -- were he not paying attention to soccer.

* The achievement of the success of the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. Hunt had no idea it would be so well received and so financially successful. In 1988, when it was awarded, he thought the U.S. leadership was a bit crazy to think it could succeed in this country.

* The French fans on the Champs-Elysees and the other streets of Paris after the French won the World Cup semifinal and final in 1998.

* The stunning success of the Women's World Cup and the U.S. women's team in 1999. Hunt considered that development to be one of the great achievements in the annals of sports promotion.

* The stadiums in Korea and Japan and the absolutely unbelievable Korean crowd response -- both in the stadium and on the streets of Korea--during the 2002 World Cup.

* Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal.

* Every game Brazil plays.

* The opening Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999, the first of many hoped-for soccer-specific stadiums in this country, and experiencing the positive response to that facility.

* The Kansas City Wizards' 2000 MLS Cup championship.

* The 1997 MLS Cup 56,000-seat sellout in a rainstorm at RFK Stadium at the same time the Washington Redskins were hosting a home game before 80,000 fans, seven miles away at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

* The important role that MLS stars played on the U.S.'s 2002 World Cup team.

* The success of the World Cup qualifying games: U.S.-Costa Rica in Columbus, October 2000; U.S.-Mexico in Columbus, February 2001; and U.S.-Costa Rica in Kansas City, April 2001. Ticket buyers came from 46 of the 50 states for these three games, which proved there was a broad base of support for the U.S. team.

-- Michael Lewis

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