I love attending sporting events at Northwestern – the sea of purple shirts, the noise of cheers (GO U! NU!), and of course the talent of our division one athletes always make for an exciting event. While I wouldn’t trade this semester abroad for anything, I will admit that my autumn has been incomplete without Saturday football games. So when our IES social events coordinator organized an outing to a game in a professional championship tournament, I knew I had to go. The sport? It was about as European as they get: handball.
Attending this game was about more than satisfying my need for organized sports events however, it was also about uncovering more of my father’s story. I inherited my great love for sports from my dad who played on a handball team when he lived in France. I could hear his excitement through the phone last week as he told me all about the game that is handball and how much I was going to enjoy the match. Perhaps he could sense my skepticism from the other side of the Atlantic when I casually mentioned I was going to a national handball championship game.
I was prepared to be bored. I was prepared to want to go home. I wasn’t prepared to love the game and soak up the atmosphere. I wasn’t prepared to feel such a strong support for HBC Nantes.
But the incredible thing about sports is their ability to bring people together. Differences in age, nationality, and native tongue seem to disappear when everyone’s cheering at the top of their lungs after a great play. After feeling like an outsider for four months, I finally felt like I belonged. I was one of them. In that moment I wasn’t just an American, I was a supporter of HBC Nantes and that’s all that mattered.
I haven’t had a chance to call my dad since I went to the match, but when I do I’ll tell him he was right. I loved the game – not necessarily because of the fast speed or the impressive technique of the athletes, but because of the way it united the city of Nantes and made me feel like a true Nantaise. Allez, Nantes, Allez!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Katie Nodjimbadem is a junior at Northwestern University majoring in journalism and planning to minor in French. She enjoys writing about diversity and culture for North by Northwestern magazine and loves interacting with prospective students as a campus tour guide. Katie bleeds purple and loves to cheer on her fellow wildcats at varsity sporting events. As the daughter of two Francophone parents, she desires to improve her French to better understand her heritage and strengthen her ties with her extended family.</span></p>