Watching the world cup is a weird and wonderful experience. Grown men cry, people yell at a screen, there are copious laughs, beers consumed, post-match shots ordered in celebration or commiseration, and costumes that seem to make no sense to one who is not part of that particular, costume-wearing collective.
I’ve watched Argentina play against Bosnia in a Greek bar, chatting with a Greek family. I saw Germany fight bravely against Ghana in an Irish pub sipping on Czech beer and American cider – from New Hampshire, no less. I’ve yelled at the TV with my dad at my grandmother’s house, eating Chinese food, drinking Italian wine, venting frustration at England’s poor performance against Italy. I relaxed with a snack in a Korean buffet while Bosnia’s game against Nigeria played on in the background. And I saw Croatia knock Cameroon out of the world cup while drinking French Rose and enjoying escargot.
Football is my sport of choice, costumes aside. Growing up in England, it’s sort of sewn into the fabric of those scratchy school sweaters; you either understand quickly what “offside” means and pick your team to support, or you’re the subject of bemused ridicule. Being that I wanted to fit in, I chose football and swayed allegiance between Sunderland and Newcastle, depending on who was performing better that season and which colors I preferred. (Note: the better performing team was in the press more, positively, and it was therefore easier to fudge superior knowledge of players, goals and league positioning that season.) However, I actually enjoy watching the matches. It’s a neat, organized sport and such skill is involved that things are generally entertaining enough for most of the 90 minutes. And if not, it’s actually really, truly over in a manageable amount of time, so you can get on with your life – but don’t try telling that to a fan whose team has just lost an important game.
Yet this World Cup I’ve been going a lot of my game-watching alone, a single woman at the bar with a glass of wine – or beer – muttering to herself, occasionally,providing my own personal commentary to the match. (A disclaimer is necessary: this is New York and I haven’t lost my mind just yet, talking to myself in public.) Despite what the news says, most Americans don’t understand or care about football; I have yet to meet anyone who really does gets what’s going on and is willing to watch beyond just Team USA. That being said, watching so many matches that, globally, are revered and beloved, in such marvelous circumstances has been fun. That’s it: just simply fun. Naturally, there’s another part of me thrilled to experience something from my childhood here, there and everywhere in a style akin to that of a typical Saturday in England. But I’m just glad the World Cup is happening in an opportune time zone and I can enjoy the familiar, at least for a few weeks.