Today it was a glorious late afternoon in Paris and I had had enough of some macho colleagues and decided to take a break and go watch the US-Slovenia World Cup match at my local café (2-2!). I picked up my daughter from school and sat half outside half inside watching the screen with genuine excitement. The only person yelling at the screen with glee or disappointment was another woman, there with her little girl ... a Slovenian neighbor, waving her flag.
Watching the World Cup reminds me of playing soccer as a girl growing up in suburban Houston, where my British neighbor was head of the local United team, made up of player from many nations. I remember their games, their parties, their political discussions -- they made me want to travel. Soccer truly brings people together. I skipped Sunday school to go watch games for years. One summer I was even grounded yet was allowed to go to the neighbor's house to watch the 1982 World Cup with their cute Danish house-sitter! I met and got to know my first big love when we played on a coed team at university together. Soccer for me is equated to love stories, crushes ... and heartbreak. Sometimes soccer simply came first. Then I moved to Europe and had megadoses of World Cup soccer. There was the summer of 1998 when France won and I was in France and the summer when Germany lost and I was in Germany.
The feeling of being surrounded by serious soccer fans is simply fantastic. As a woman living in Rome, I can recall the literally empty streets as every single Roman was inside watching Italy v. Someone. Once a Lazio fan (I was pro Roma) told me he could not bear to attend the Roma-Lazio match because it was simply too emotional for him. My step-sons are Paris St Germain fans, but we still love them anyway. I also remember very cute soccer players. There was that Dane in Houston, the various Italians always, and now, at last, a mostly adorable wonderful US team which is making me pretty proud here in Paris (cannot say the same for the French team, sad to say).
One of my favorite Italian films is called "The Summer of Bobby Charlton" and it mixes love sex and loss in with great doses of soccer. Those legs running, the young beautiful men playing, the agony of a missed goal, (I have a weakness for goalies) the fans! Here in France, women don't really play soccer and I feel sad for my daughter who sees her Norwegian and American friends let loose on the field. I tried to find an female adult soccer team once to play with once here and it was virtually impossible.
This time around my daughter's godmother, whom I met during that Danish house-sitting incident 28 summers ago, a World Cup summer (they are somehow different than other summers) is here visiting us in Paris. We met because of soccer, and she escaped the soccer crowds in South Africa to come here during the World Cup ... but actually said that before they left, the feeling in the air in South Africa was great! Everyone is so proud and it means so much for the country, truly uniting them.
I actually made a guy with whom I had a second date base the entire evening around my being able to watch the U.S. play the U.K. last week. He won big points for that ... and for enjoying my enthusiasm. Women who love soccer really truly love it! When boys playing in the park accidentally kick their soccer ball towards me I happily do a little dribble step turnaround before kicking it back -- ahhh, I still remember the moves. In fact, where is the next World Cup being held? Hmmm ... might use those frequent flier miles...