Saturday, June 26, 2010

Student’s video tribute to Donovan a hit

Robby Donoho, the popular video's creator, is a senior at Purdue University.

Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo

IRENE, South Africa – College student Robby Donoho watched Landon Donovan’s golden goal on Wednesday and decided it merited an instant tribute. Little did he know, within hours it would wind up bringing the United States soccer hero, flicking through the Internet half a world away, to tears.

Donoho, a 21-year-old Purdue University senior and avid fan of the men’s national team, collected a montage of clips of USA fans celebrating Donovan’s injury-time winner against Algeria and assembled them into a catchy package, which he put on YouTube.

Within hours, the video had gone viral, and as the American players headed to bed on Friday night ahead of their round-of-16 match against Ghana in Rustenburg, more than 350,000 viewers had tuned in.

It didn’t take long for the images to be passed through to the USA’s training camp near Pretoria and onto the laptop of Donovan himself. For all of the praise and plaudits the goal-scoring star received after his moment of glory, it was seeing the reaction sparked by his calm strike into the bottom corner of the Algerian net that touched him the most.

“Not sure if you guys saw this but it brings tears to my eyes every time,” Donovan wrote on his Facebook account, while linking to Donoho’s video. “Thank you all so much … we can do it.”

The scenes were intoxicating. From a frantic fan leaping from his couch in Arkansas to a raucous bar in Lincoln, Neb. From a Las Vegas casino to a New York sidewalk, where fans congregated to peer at a television through a shop window. From an American enclave in Lyon, France, to the streets of South Africa, the pictures of jubilation were enough to warm the hearts of those who have waited for soccer to matter in America.

For Donoho, it was a moment he will never forget, and it spawned unavoidable mental comparisons with a certain hockey game from 30 years ago.

“When I watched Landon’s goal go in, and the response from everyone across the world, it immediately reminded me of the Miracle on Ice,” Donoho wrote in an email to Yahoo! Sports, referring to the USA’s legendary hockey upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. “Those kind of moments captivate a nation and bring us together in a time where belief seems dim and victory doesn’t seem possible. It was down the stretch, with everything on the line.

“The best always comes out in sports, and it did for that moment and Landon. That’s what inspired the world to react with sheer excitement and joy.”

American soccer is not blessed with a long list of spectacular moments. When the end of this tournament allows a sense of perspective to return, if Donovan’s goal does not go down as the national team’s finest hour, it will surely remain its most dramatic.

Head coach Bob Bradley took the decision to shield his players from the glare of the spotlight by sequestering them in a quiet training base in the countryside. Yet the omnipresence of the Internet allowed a sense of the excitement they had conjured back home to seep through.

“There needs to be some kind of distance, but I also think it is important for the players to realize what their achievement means to people,” Bradley said. “That is [not a] bad thing.”

For Donovan, this has been an emotional time. After failing to live up to expectations at the World Cup four years ago in Germany, Wednesday night was the kind of moment he had targeted on the countless nights when the pain of under-performance kept him awake.

When you combine the pride the 28-year-old has in representing his nation with tumultuous recent events in his personal life, it is little surprise Donoho’s stirring video elicited more raw emotion.

And he wasn’t the only one.

“Hearing about Landon’s reaction to my video almost brings me to tears,” said Donoho, who is studying mass communication (broadcast journalism) at Purdue. “I have always gone into making my videos and putting them on YouTube to bring excitement and joy into every viewer that sees them. To hear that the player that inspired the world with his goal saw my video and it inspired him to tears, brings me to tears just typing this.”

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