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Silicon Valley's latest perk: World Cup viewing parties at work

By Noel Randewich and Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Theme lunches, giant TVs and viewing parties. Silicon Valley may be far from the World Cup in Brazil but tech employees are getting in on the globe's most prestigious soccer event.

Twitter, LinkedIn and Nvidia are among several tech companies airing matches in their offices during the next month and encouraging employees to follow the action.

The World Cup has made inroads in the United States, although employees at many companies must be circumspect about getting their fix. But some tech companies, famous for giving their engineers everything from gourmet food to on-site hairdressers, World Cup fever's penetration is reminiscent of Latin America or Europe, where the tournament captivates the public.

Redwood City's Evernote, which makes note-taking software, dished up traditional Brazilian Feijoada meat stew and bolo de fuba cornmeal cake for lunch while Thursday's opening match between Brazil and Croatia played on projector TVs.

As the tournament progresses, with up to three games per day in the coming weeks, Evernote, as well as Twitter, Facebook Inc and Zynga Inc will have games playing in conference rooms and other locations.

"There are no real rules, you can watch as much of the game as you want," said Linda Kozlowski, Evernote's vice president of worldwide operations. She expects many employees to bring laptops along and work while cheering their favorite team.

Most of this year's matches are scheduled during office hours in California, making for potential disruptions at companies known for demanding work schedules.

Electronic Arts Inc, which makes the 2014 World Cup Brazil videogame, is hosting "viewing parties" at its offices, including in a big-screen theater at its Redwood City headquarters. Its Vancouver, Canada office has daily contests for employees to win official World Cup soccer balls.

The region's top technology companies attract talent from around the world, making for diverse engineering departments often including a fair share of soccer enthusiasts.

Half of Silicon Valley residents speak a language other than English at home, compared to a fifth of people across the United States, according to the US Census Bureau.

French, US, Brazilian and Mexican team jerseys were spotted at chipmaker Nvidia on the days of "friendly" matches ahead of the 32-country tournament.

Cafeterias at Nvidia's 4,000-employee Santa Clara headquarters are showing matches throughout the tournament, said human resources manager Stephanie Luck.

"Because we hold our large meetings in cafeterias, we already have big screens and projectors. So the World Cup or (San Francisco) Giants World Series, anything super-important like that, you can walk into the cafeteria and it's just a sea of people," she said.

The arrival of international stars like David Beckham to play in North America's growing soccer league has increased Americans' interest in the world's most popular game. But Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the iPhone, may be ahead of the trend.

Two in three Americans do not plan to follow the tournament, and only 7 percent anticipate following it closely, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. [ID:nL2N0N60MO]

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by David Gregorio)

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