JT is a huge sports fan, so it’s no surprise that he’s taken to football/soccer, keeping tabs on our own Cambridge United, following the premiership league in England, and, of course, watching the World Cup. I’m less of a sports fan, but I certainly appreciate that in Europe, football is a universal language – far more so than in the US.
The next game we hosted was England’s next game, England vs. Algeria. We used it as an excuse to invite our neighbors over, whom we’ve been meaning to have over for far too long, and who are, it turns out, huge football fans. Emily and I used the game as an excuse to plan a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dinner feast.
US vs Algeria from dceditors on Vimeo.
Over the following weeks, we’d hear cheers from local houses and pubs from the various groups watching the games. You’d see people walking around town wearing their team/country’s colors or jersey.
We headed to Turin, Italy, last week for a work conference and while strolling in town the first day we found a piazza where they were showing the Brazil/Holland game on a big screen in the town square. The Dutch won, which meant the Netherlands won would be playing three days later in the semifinal. One of our work colleagues is Dutch and was keen to watch the game, so of course we were happy to oblige—accompanied by a 5-course outdoor dinner in the same piazza as we watched the big screen.
The next day was the Germany-Spain semifinal. We were traveling from Turin to Nice, France, and made it to our apartment there just as the game was about to start but decided to dash out to grab a few groceries first. While JT picked out cereal and beer, I gathered my items at the checkout, looked at my watch, and made a face. The man behind the counter looked at me quizzically and I tapped my watch and said, “futbol.” “Ah, football,” he says, and proudly reaches over to a tiny iPhone sized screen and clicks it on. There on a three-inch screen was the football game: No way he was going to let work cause him to miss a game.
We tried not to listen too closely, or think too hard about whether our neighborhood is more Spanish or Dutch. Since we had been gone for about 10 days, we had missed the summer transition from the Cambridge University students to the summer foreign-language students; the college closest to us hosts hundreds of students from Spain who come to Cambridge each summer to learn/practice English. As I wandered around town the next day, I encountered several clumps of the students, wearing Spain’s red and gold and even carrying their national flag. They may be in town to learn English, but for that day, they spoke the international language of football.