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Tristan Ahtone: Kiowa Tribe cheers Chris Wondo at World Cup

Filed Under: National | Sports
More on: chris wondolowski, kiowa, oklahoma

Chris Wondolowski

Reporting for Al Jazeera America, Tristan Ahtone finds a lot of support in Oklahoma for Chris Wondolowski, a member of the Kiowa Tribe, who is playing for the U.S. Soccer Team at the World Cup:
If a visitor strolled into the Kiowa Elders Center early Sunday evening, the hall looked much like it normally does. A buffalo head hung over the fireplace. Deer, moose and elk antlers were mounted over doorways. Old sepia-toned photos of famous Kiowa chiefs, such as Lone Wolf and Satanta, men who tangled with the likes of Custer and Sheridan, hung on the wall.

But that visitor would also see nearly 100 members of this formerly nomadic tribe, faces painted with stripes of red, white and blue, waving American flags and watching a large flat-screen TV, cheering on the United States team in a match against Portugal in a stadium in Manaus, Brazil.

The reason for this soccer fever was personal. Enrolled Kiowa tribal member Chris Wondolowski is a forward on the U.S. team — the first tribally enrolled Native American to participate at the World Cup.

For soccer fans, the climactic moment in that game happened in the final agonizing minutes of injury time, when Portugal scored and leveled the match at 2-2. But for the people at the Kiowa World Cup watching party, the real excitement happened before then.

Tribal members leaned forward in their folding chairs in the final 10 minutes of the match, some wearing T-shirts with Wondolowski’s likeness, listening intently, then cheering when one of the ESPN announcers intoned, “Fairy tale for Chris Wondolowski, another player who’s really paid his dues in the game. The San Jose Earthquakes goal scorer plays in the World Cup.”

A shot of Wondolowski appeared onscreen as he prepared to enter the game, and the room erupted in cheers and applause.

Get the Story:
Tristan Ahtone: Oklahoma tribe feels Kiowa pride with their man at the World Cup (Al Jazeera 6/24)

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Chris Wondolowski, Kiowa, named MVP in Major League Soccer (11/29)
Chris Wondolowski, Kiowa, up for Major League Soccer award (11/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee sets hearing on November 29 (11/21

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