The game is a-foot...football that is. For those Americans not in the know, to the rest of the planet, football means soccer. Soccer may not be the sport of choice within our borders, but leap anywhere outside and you will see children playing in the streets with their soccer balls in tow while
adults scream cheers or jeers at television screens in various languages around the world.
Sure movies like Bend it Like Beckham and its namesake David Beckham himself along with former Spice Girl wife, Victoria, may have brought to the U.S. a little glam to the sport, but even the good looks of this hip couple can not spring forward the intensity that soccer fans everywhere else have.
One might think, what is she talking about? We have our own football and we are fans of our teams! Yes, we may have American football and given a good Monday night game or most especially when the Super Bowl rolls around, fans can be found at BBQs and bars around the country cheering for their favorite team, but our fans do not hold a candle to the "fan"atic behavior that soccer conjures up on all other continents.
I remember the first time I traveled to Europe. After my university days were over, I decided to embark on the mandatory backpacking tour of each country with my then boyfriend. We happened to be here during the World Cup. I didn't know what the World Cup was at the time, but I quickly learned it was the biggest tournament in the world. As we traveled through each country I found that entire countries were rooting for a team. I mean as a Bay Arean, us locals root for the 49ers or the Raiders, but here it's everyone everywhere following their national team.
And boy is this game taken seriously. While leaving Italy on that first trip, the train was suddenly silent for the rest of the journey. Radios in every car announced that the Italians had just lost. I don't know about you, but it is my experience that Italians are the most expressive people in the universe. So, to hear the sound of silence there of all places was quite an oddity.
I then found myself in Germany during the final round and guess what? The Germans won. I would like to think it was our presence that gave the Germans the good luck card, but don't tell them I said that. Singing and general partying in the streets until the wee hours of the night was a requirement, even to us Americans who had just seen our first game and had no idea why it was so fascinating to everyone else. At least the partying was a good time.
Fast forward to last night, some cup or another was being fed to local Parisian TVs. It wasn't the World Cup, but maybe the African Cup. The game was clearly over at 11pm. I knew this because at exactly that time fans began their cheering and horn honking for the rest of the night. Nearly 19 years have passed since my first soccer experience. Then I was completely game to party along side the fans. These days, however, all I could think about was "Don't these people have kids or at least jobs? I need my sleep!"
After an hour of listening to screams outside my window, I decided to either get used to it or put some plugs in my ears. Soccer is here (or should I say "hear") to stay.
Thank you for reading and bonne journee!