San Diego’s Hotbed of Innovation Also a Hotbed for World Cup Fans

Earlier this week on ESPN radio, the announcers introduced news about the dramatic U.S. victory over Algeria in the World Cup soccer tournament by saying (approximately): And now, for the four or five Americans who are soccer fans…

Ouch. Ironic too, considering that ESPN invested $100 million for the broadcasting rights to the 2010 World Cup tournament now playing in South Africa, and for the 2014 tournament in Brazil. As I recently reported, the World Cup ranks as the biggest sporting event in the world—except in the United States—with a total cumulative audience of 26.3 billion, with a ‘B,’ during the last World Cup in 2006.

Meanwhile, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Nielsen ratings released after the U.S.-Algeria match (which the U.S. won in overtime, 1-0) show that San Diego ranks as the No. 1 U.S. market for the three televised U.S. matches. Roughly double the percentage of homes in San Diego were tuned into the soccer games, compared to the national average. The U.S.-Algeria match was the highest-rated TV show in San Diego County Wednesday, with an 8.9 Nielsen rating (each point represents 10,730 households)—and ranks even higher if you include the 1.7 rating from Spanish-language Univision.

So who are these soccer fans in San Diego who are following the clash of nations in the World Cup? At least 75 were scientists and employees of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, who gathered in the cafeteria at lunchtime Monday to watch England play Algeria. The fateful game ended in a tie that left the overtly British fans harrumphing and the Americans happily applauding (since England’s tie was America’s gain). I also found uh, four or five CEOs from San Diego’s life sciences and technology companies who are avid fans:

Claudio Canive, founding CEO of Platformic, a website development provider, tells me he’s a lifelong soccer fan who has played since he was a kid. He even played soccer for his fraternity while attending San Diego State University and in an adult league. “I’m following Spain, but obviously our hearts are with the U.S. as well,” Canive says. “It will be interesting to see what happens if the U.S. plays Spain.” Canive says his wife Leyla also is a fan, and they held a World Cup party at their house Wednesday for the U.S.-Algeria game. “We all went bananas when Landon Donovan scored in overtime the other day,” Canive says. “That never-say-die U.S. attitude is great to watch.”

Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica, which is genetically engineering microbes to produce industrial chemicals that otherwise are made from fossil fuels in petrochemical plants, responded to my query by e-mail from South Africa: “Just left the Spain-Honduras game (game #3 of 9). Fantastic scene here in SA.” When I asked Schilling why he’s a fan, he answered: “My father is 100 percent German and my mother 100 percent French, so I have always been cheering those … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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