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Child of 1994 U.S. World Cup devastated by failed bid

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
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Qatar wins 2022 bid
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • We really wanted it for this country, fans tell CNN
  • Bill Clinton and Morgan Freeman made the case for the United States
  • World soccer's governing body chose Qatar instead to host the 2022 tournament
  • "I'm disappointed," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says

(CNN) -- David Baker was 10 years old when the World Cup came to the United States in 1994, and he still has the blue soccer jersey he bought back then.

"That's when I 'caught soccer' and became a fan. That's when I said, 'Soccer is a great sport,'" he said.

So he was devastated, he said, when the sport's governing body awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar rather than the United States on Thursday.

Not only would winning the bid have boosted the U.S. economy, he argued, it would have been great for the development of soccer in arguably the largest sports market in the world.

"It would have been fantastic for the growth of soccer in our country" at a time "when it's primed to take the next step forward -- or the next step back," the North Carolina pastor said.

Soccer opened up a whole new world for him, he said.

"As a 10-year-old kid, I said these countries [that play soccer] are awesome," he remembered. "For me, that was so neat -- to think that when you kick a soccer ball, you can do that with somebody from any country, any religion, any language."

He doesn't expect the United States to have another chance to host the global tournament anytime soon.

"That's why today was so devastating," he said.

The president of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, echoed Baker's thoughts.

"There's no way around it: I am disappointed," he said minutes after the U.S. bid was defeated.

"Millions of U.S. soccer fans worked hard to bring the World Cup to our country," he said.

Some of those fans were very big names indeed.

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Former President Bill Clinton and actor Morgan Freeman made the case for the United States in Zurich, Switzerland, where FIFA executives voted Thursday.

"Maybe America's best claim to this World Cup is that we have the only nation you can put the World Cup that can guarantee that no matter who makes the finals, we can fill a stadium with home-nation rooters," Clinton told FIFA executives before the voting.

When Ghana knocked the United States out of the World Cup this summer, Clinton said Ghanian-Americans celebrated in Miami and Philadelphia, wrapped in the African nation's flag.

American soccer stars Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm, and Attorney General Eric Holder also came out to support the bid alongside Gulati.

But it was not to be. Qatar, which promised a carbon-neutral World Cup, complete with air-conditioned stadiums, will become the first Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament, the largest sporting event in the world each time it is held.

"We really wanted this for the country. It would have been great for the sport," New York Red Bulls season ticket holder Sebastian Ostolaza told CNN's Richard Roth minutes after the announcement.

"It would have been a lot of fun for everyone and we're extremely disappointed to have heard what happened," he said at the team's stadium, where he heard the announcement with friends.

But he was gracious to Qatar in defeat.

"I think it's great because soccer is a worldwide sport, and to bring the game back to Asia is going bring fans from over there back into it," he said.

The United States last hosted it in 1994, when Clinton was president.

Team USA acquitted itself well at the World Cup this year, finishing at the top of its group in South Africa before its loss to Ghana.

CNN's Kristi Keck Ramsay contributed to this report.

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