CHARLOTTE – Eddy Piñeiro left the Panthers' locker room after practice Thursday sporting an Argentina soccer jersey.
Carolina's kicker, who was named NFC special teams player of the week for his performance in Seattle, said he'll be pulling for Argentina in Sunday's World Cup final against France in Lusail, Qatar.
But because that match kicks off at 10 a.m. Charlotte time, and Piñeiro will be warming up for the Panthers' 1 p.m. game against the Steelers, he'll have to wait until after the match is over to catch up.
He has a plan – though it isn't exactly spoiler-proof, given his fellow soccer-loving friends.
"What I'm going to do is I'm going to record it, and I'll just watch it over," Piñeiro said. "I'll try not to get on my phone, but I'm sure somebody's going to send me a message. My friends are big-time Argentinian fans, so they'll probably send me a message. But I want to watch the game."
Piñeiro has had a lifetime love for soccer and said he grew up watching Argentina's Lionel Messi. Piñeiro played soccer before he found a knack for kicking an American football in high school.
"I love the way Messi plays, the passion, and how passionate (Argentinians) are about the game," Piñeiro said. "You see them crying on TV and stuff when they score or get scored on. It's just an amazing passion."
Safety Jeremy Chinn said he's new to the soccer fandom, embracing the game after he attended his first Charlotte FC match in its inaugural season. He said he's kept up with this year's World Cup too.
"I was like, 'Holy cow,'" Chinn said of the first time he saw a soccer match live. "It's the atmosphere, and that's here in Charlotte. So imagine how it is in Qatar right now."
Chinn said he was rooting for the United States and Germany throughout the World Cup, but he'll also be pulling for Argentina on Sunday.
"Messi has been balling," Chinn said. "I don't think he's going to slow down."
The next World Cup in 2026 will be held in 16 cities across North America, including nine in the U.S. The closest match to Charlotte geographically will be held in Atlanta.
View photos from Wednesday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Steelers.