Friday, July 07, 2006

It's Hard To Be A France Supporter When You're In England

This will be my one and only post about the World Cup...

The tournament started while I was, unfortunately, in "football"-mad England. In fact, I realised my horrendous mistake of coinciding my vacation with the start of the World Cup at about the same time as I landed in London, but by then it was too late to turn back.

Every second car in London looked like this. (The photo was snapped by Max Barry in Bedford at about the same time as I was in London.) Actually, more accurately, every second car has those flags all over it. Most of the cars in London are newer and more stylish.

Most pubs also had these very weird "inflatable footballers" decorating their facades, which now, it seems, everyone is trying to get rid of in a hurry. I guess that's because England is now out of the tournament and the nation is probably trying to forget that it was ever in the tournament but, honestly, I would have tossed them weeks ago just for being so creepy.

When I went to Hamleys the guy at the till tried to sell me an inflatable England soccer ball or bean bag or something at a discount because I'd spent so much money there.

The last time I watched a World Cup with any enthusiasm was in 1990 (I was young then) and nowadays I don't really support any team, especially since my national side didn't actually make it anywhere near what one might term "qualifying", but travelling from one soccer-mad country (England) to another (France), and realising that I actually can't avoid it, I decided that, for now, I am a France supporter. It helps that the French are, thankfully, more subdued when it comes to their enthusiasm for the sport. It also helps that France has Henry and Zidane, whereas England has a certain player that I really, really don't like. It also helped that during my visit to Paris I ended up in a French-Spanish paella restaurant and bar one night while France was playing Korea, and couldn't help but enjoy the atmosphere as the patrons watched the match on a big screen inside.

When I returned to London I realised that suddenly I had to pretend to be an England supporter (or - better - avoid the topic of conversation altogether), because it's actually illegal to support any other team in England, except for Brazil. I know this because there is a pub next to the New London Theatre that was advertising its Brazilian heritage and support for the team.

Now, back in SA, and with the tournament almost over, I can happily ignore it without feeling weird or risking a confrontation with a rabid supporter, or I can happily watch a match, or a part thereof (preferably an exciting part), in peace. It's wonderful.

And I remain a France supporter. After all, the team's footwork is fantastic.

(As an aside - I found out the following while checking some information for this post - and, in fact, this is only for my friend in America [*]: the Faroe Islands actually has a soccer team. Shocker!)

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