Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Real Football

I didn’t pay much attention to soccer (football or futbol outside the U.S.) until 1978. I was living in New York and heard that this thing called the World Cup was being played in Argentina and that 1 billion people would be watching the final game between Argentina and the Netherlands.

A billion people! This I gotta see. If about one out of every four people on the planet were interested, so was I. Satellite TV was in its infancy, but far enough along so that some movie theaters were going to show the game live. My home was a short distance from one of the locales, the famous Brooklyn Paramount Theater, a huge rococo movie palace that opened in 1928. So I went.

The place was packed, mostly with Argentina supporters. And they were in a frenzy. I was sure that if Argentina didn’t win we were in for a riot. Fortunately for the sake of law and order and my well being, they did win. And I had been introduced to the most popular game on earth.

My interest waned (there wasn’t any football worth watching in the U.S.) but revived again in 1994 when the World Cup was played in this country. In the years since I have become more and more passionate about the game. With the help of my Italian friend and football mentor, Michelangelo, I have learned the strategy and intricacies of what they call calcio in Italy. And with the advent of satellite broadcasts at home I have access to games from England, Italy, Spain, Germany, South America – you name it I can watch it.

So why am I talking about this today? I realized this morning that I am an active participant in a worldwide conversation. At the grocery store behind the meat counter was Fidele, an Italian guy who, like me, is a Juventino (Juventus supporter) and a Barcelona fan who comes from Guatemala. “Did you watch the game last night?” Fidele asked. I knew he wasn’t talking about the All-Star Game that was played here in San Francisco last night. He was talking about the Copa America semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay. The three of us talked football while I bought my salmon, ground chuck and hot Italian sausage.

Later in the morning Sandra and I were out walking. We passed a young man from England who asked a question about one of the old Victorian houses we were passing. He saw that I was wearing my Juventus t-shirt and one of my team caps, this one from Arsenal. So the conversation turned to which team do we support? Turns out he is a Chelsea man, also a team I like. As a matter of fact we will be going down to Stanford Saturday to see Chelsea play Club America from Mexico in a pre-season friendly.

It’s everywhere, this football thing. Wherever I go I can be sure that a football-related interaction is possible and likely. Being part of this conversation is a lot of fun.


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