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Welcome to America: Lights FC to swear in new US citizens

The last time I wrote about Lights FC was before Colon Night at Cashman Field.

Soccer fans had to walk through a 12-foot tall inflatable colon to get to their seats. Those who survived received pamphlets educating them about colon health.

Lights owner/pitchman Brett Lashbrook is providing another public service (sans inflatable accoutrements) at Saturday night’s game against Sacramento at Cashman Field. At halftime, approximately 700 applicants will be sworn in as U.S. citizens by federal judge Andrew Gordon.

And no, they won’t have to scramble for their Certificates of Naturalization after they are tossed out of a helicopter.

Lashbrook said when he met with local immigration officials, they mentioned a ceremony with no more than a couple dozen applicants.

“I said ‘Why so few?’ Let’s go for the record,” he said. “Let’s create the most unique and memorable experience for these new citizens. Let’s pack the playing field with people holding little American flags while we have 8,000 fans on their feet chanting ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ ”

Beers on the haus

Citizenship candidates from 84 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia, will take part. Many are from passionate soccer-playing nations.

Among those representing Germany, winner of World Cups in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014, will be Stefan Gastager and his wife, Katharina, owners of Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas.

It was a vacation visit to the Italian-themed Venetian in 2000 that inspired Gastager, also a devout supporter of Bayern Munich, one of international soccer’s best-known club sides, to recreate Munich’s iconic beer hall and garden in the shadow of the Strip.

“I said if they can replicate Venice, why can’t I replicate the most famous beer hall in the world, the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany, built in 1589,” said the former Formula One engine builder. “(But) Hofbrauhaus is 100 percent owned by the state of Bavaria. I had to approach them to get a license agreement which had not been done for 400 years.”

Then came the difficult part — finding $12 million for a piece of real estate in Las Vegas upon which to tap the keg. A vision and sales pitch that would have impressed the most ambitious of U.S. capitalists made another American dream come true.

To Cirque with love

Sometimes the American dream becomes an American love story.

Maite Mejean, who grew up in the south of France near Avignon in Provence — a region known for its medieval papal palace and its Domaine Tempier, Cheateau Vignelaure and other fine wines — met her husband and started a family in Las Vegas.

Mejean, 31, was a synchronized swimming champion who represented France in the 2012 Olympics and other international competitions before crossing the pond to perform in Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas. Cody, her Colorado-born husband, was an acrobat in Le Reve. Noah, their 16-month-old son, was born here.

“I really wanted to have the same citizenship as my husband and son and I’m very proud — we’ve been here so long and are planning to stay in the country for a long time,” she said. “People in America are very welcoming.”

As for officially becoming a U.S. citizen on a soccer pitch, she confessed to not being much of a fan of the “The Beautiful Game,” as the legendary Pele called it. Don’t believe it.

When I told her there is a World Cup jersey with former France star Thierry Henry’s name on back hanging in my closet, she correctly surmised it probably had only one gold star (representing World Cup titles) under the coq gaulois (rooster) patch on front.

Henry played on France’s 1998 World Cup-winning team but was long retired when Les Bleus repeated as champion in 2018. She suggested I visit her birthplace for a France shirt with two gold stars.

Maite Mejean may not yet be aware that supporters of the U.S. men’s national team have switched their identity from Sam’s Army to American Outlaws. But one gets the feeling she will be proud to pledge her allegiance.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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