Forgive Two-Boys Gumede if his priorities have been mixed these last few weeks. Gumede, a midfielder and forward for the NSC Minnesota Stars, hails from Durban, South Africa, one of the host cities for the World Cup. Every morning since the first kickoff, Gumede has been glued to the television watching the action unfold from his homeland. Even with South Africa eliminated after the group stage, he plans to keep tuned in until the final match July 11. Between World Cup games and a Stars function earlier this week, Gumede found time to speak with the Star Tribune's Brian Stensaas.

Q What was your reaction to the announcement that South Africa was going to host the World Cup?

A I was very overwhelmed -- way excited. And not just me. My friends, my family, everybody in South Africa was very happy about that. For the World Cup to be headed not just to South Africa but to Africa for the first time was an amazing feeling. Beyond happy. I can't even begin to explain how big of a deal this is. We didn't know when this was going to happen; when we heard it was South Africa, it was pretty much a big celebration for the whole African continent.

Q How big is soccer there?

A It is bigger than anything in Africa. It's the same as if you're in South America or Europe. It's huge, a big deal. Growing up, everybody played in the streets hoping to work their way up to better teams, end up in the pros.

Q What's your impression of how soccer is received here in the United States?

A I have seen it become more popular. Soccer in America is very young, especially the MLS. Since I came here [in 2001], I've seen it grow pretty big. And that is very good for North America. And now that the U.S. has played well in the World Cup, it shows that they are passionate about their soccer and it is definitely growing.

Q How about in Minnesota?

A It's pretty big. I was hoping that we'd be getting more fans [at Stars games]. We're not getting as many as we'd hoped. But lots of people are still coming in, and that's good. Slowly but surely it's growing. Maybe in a couple of years it will be like how it is in Europe, South America or South Africa.

Q I'm sure this has been an exciting few weeks of watching the World Cup.

A Oh, definitely. I haven't missed a game. It's amazing when I look at the stadium [in Durban]. When I was growing up, I would take a taxi to go to practice and I would go right by where that is. It's a new one now, but right on that spot I would train there. I saw it being built in 2007. Now to see it done on TV is amazing. I can't believe it.

Q I have to ask about the origin of your first name

A I get that a lot. I have five brothers, and I'm the second-oldest. My mom always wanted a girl, and after she had a boy she thought the second time she would have a girl. When I came out, she was like, 'Oh, I have two boys.' And that's how my name came along.

Brian Stensaas • bstensaas@startribune.com