I’m not a huge sports fan, but I have my moments or seasons. A good example is when our children were playing different sports through the years. Then I couldn’t help but LOVE soccer, track, and cross country. As you know it is playoff season for high school football. Since I teach in a high school, playoff is a buzz word. And it just turned cold in northern Louisiana so the time is right.
Soccer became popular when our children were little–ages three and four. I remember my husband volunteering to coach the teams when he knew nothing about the sport. The local YMCA helped him along, until one day, my husband said “I have this. It is just like basketball but with the feet.” Presto! We have been hooked for life. My daughter still plays as an adult in city leagues.
During this time the World Cup for the first time interested me. While in Ecuador in the early 2000s, the Ecuadorian team played for the first time ever(?) in the World Cup. I ducked into a small café and joined the locals in celebration, not of a win, but of the chance to play. There’s something special about being in the country or close to the country when their teams play.
Another example was in McAllen, Texas in a restaurant when Mexico played. The excitement and noise level so high that the only thing we could do was watch and listen to the game and forget normal conversation. Once again, it was about the opportunity to play versus actually winning the game of the World Cup (Mexico lost).
I think the prime example took place this summer in France. My daughter and I started off watching a game in Charlotte, NC before boarding a plane for Paris. Once in Bordeaux instead of seeking out a quiet, quaint restaurant we sought the one with a huge TV screen (multiple TVs), lots of people, and noise as France played Uruguay. The rise and fall of the French shouts pulled us further into the celebration. I had the privilege of sitting next to a man with his son, teaching him about the game and possibly a tradition. Knowing French, I felt a part of this group of citizens. And France won.
We mapped out when the other games would be. In Carcassonne, in the old walled city, we found a small café with a big TV and the next match France versus Belgium. We settled in for two hours in the middle of French and Belgian fans. We could hear the roar from other pubs and cafes when the tension rose. France won–even the military and policemen joined in the revelry. And all of this in the ancient Medieval walls of a French town drooling with history. Outside the walls close to our lodging, the celebration continued until midnight as cars circled a huge plaza, honking as if welcoming in the new year.
The next night we were back in Carcassonne in a different restaurant, La Terrasse, since our cafe from the night before didn’t have access to the game. England versus Croatia. The British crowd dominated this restaurant. This game determined who played France for the World Cup title. As we walked back to our apartment, we stopped at each cafe watching to see who would win. In the end, Croatia succeeded in moving forward.
Finally, the France-Croatia confrontation began. We were in Monterosso, Italy–a quaint mountain town on the Mediterranean Sea. We couldn’t fit in the packed bars and cafés, so we relied on the brief glances on the screens and asking questions. The mood here was a bit different than in France. Italy held a grudge against France since they had clashed before and lost. Yet, France was a neighbor and a plus for Europe. In the end France won. The young and old paraded through the narrow streets, shouting, cheering, an all-out celebration!
Something about sports brings the community, the country, the world a little closer. I loved every minute of celebrating in France and Italy, just as I do at home.
Do you follow any sports?