On Sunday we went to a football game. That’s soccer to you Americans. It was a semi-final match played by Lauris, the team Johann used to play for. He still goes to practice with them in an effort to stay in shape and see his friends, but he doesn’t compete in the matches anymore. That doesn’t mean he was any less excited about the game, however. In fact, he was so enthusiastic that he actually talked me into going along.
“It will be great! We’ll see all the guys, Yannis and Benji and everyone… and Alain will be there! And if they win, they’ll go to the finals!”
“Okay. Can I make us a little picnic?”
“No need! They have hot dogs and fries and stuff there.”
“Wait a minute… there are fries?”
“Have there always been fries there?”
“Why is this the first I am hearing of this? You know, I would have gone to watch you play once and a while if you had told me that they served fries there. My God, ten years together and it’s as if you don’t know me at all.”
“So you’ll go?”
“Of course. Do I need to bring my own salt?”
“Actually, on second thought, I’m not sure that I want to be seen sitting next to you in public…”
But he did, and we had fun. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we pulled a couple of chairs up to the railing near one of the goals to watch the fun. Why chairs? There aren’t any stands anymore. There used to be, then a local physiotherapist who volunteers for the team on weekends accidentally backed into the stands with his car. While drunk. The stands were destroyed, but fortunately none of the people sitting on them at the time were seriously injured. No one sued anyone or pressed any charges. The stands were never replaced. This is a weird country.
Before the game even began, the trash-talking did. One Lauris supporter yelled at the other team’s fans, who were easily spotted standing behind the banner they had made and draped over their section of the railing, “You big assholes from Mourières!” He cried. “They’re not Mourières, that’s Mouries,” his friend said to him. “All the same!” He yelled again. This was pretty tame compared to the taunts that followed, the main idea of which seemed to be encouraging members of the other team to sexually assault themselves or one another.
It didn’t really seem like appropriate language for an event where there were lots of children in attendance. Then again, I may have underestimated the sophistication of these kids.
“Johann, is that little boy drinking a can of Panaché?” I asked.
“Looks that way,” he replied, barely turning his head away from the game.
“Isn’t that a mix of beer and lemonade?” I asked.
“That kid can’t be more than six years old!”
He turned again ever so briefly to watch him walk away. “Doesn’t look too drunk,” he said.
Though my interest in the game was pretty low, I tried to join in the fun without corrupting anyone by shouting weakly-worded insults in English. “Your outfits are ugly!” I yelled to the other team. This made Johann nearly spit out his iced tea. “Uniforms, not outfits, you loser,” he said. “All the same!” I yelled, making him laugh again. I kept it up throughout the second half: You play soccer like a bunch of girl scouts! Ha-ha, you fell down! You’re gonna lose, losers! Your momma wears men’s boxer shorts!
“Was that last one a little rude?” I ask.
“Actually, considering the things people are yelling about one another’s mothers today, what you said is actually rather charming,” he replied.
Lauris emerged victorious and the fans screamed with joy, jumping the railing and running out onto the field to hug the team. One guy jumped in the air higher than I’ve ever seen a man of that weight get from the ground without some sort of mechanism and harness. Then he did a cartwheel. He was so animated that I wondered for a second if he was actually a thin guy in a fat suit or something.
The celebration then moved quickly to the bar, where the team and fans embarked on a mission to drink themselves into oblivion in honor of the big win. It was time for us to go, though, so we returned our chairs to the clubhouse and headed for home. Though we didn’t participate in the festivities, I like to think that our presence and our chatter helped contribute to the general good vibe on the field and to their win… all the same.