Nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would be the winning of the World Cup by France while I was abroad. I always liked sports (mainly American football - I am a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan) but because America was never good at Football (Soccer - but I'll use its proper name football), it wasn't something that crossed my mind a lot. Particularly not the World Cup - which only occurs once every 4 years.
Deciding to study abroad, I didn't realize the World Cup would be played this year. Nor did I realize that France was good enough to make it very far in the competition. However, as time progressed, and the games continued, it became evident that something very big was happening and that France had a chance to win the Coupe du Monde. Leading into the final game, the excitement was overwhelming.
Now, we're talking about France. Saturday was France's National Holiday (fete nationale!). And while America goes crazy on their National Holiday, with fireworks, parties, American Flags everywhere, the whole show, France is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Aside from the fireworks (feu d'artifice) on Friday night to celebrate, it would have been hard to know that it was that day at all. No flags, no parties, nothing.
However, when Sunday rolled around that changed immediately. It was almost as if Sunday was the National Holiday. Stores had footballs in their windows, the Carrefour sold sticker books of the Football team, and flags (les drapeaux) hung from people's high windows and balconies. The whole attitude of Arles changed completely, and the entire town was thriving.
When the game commenced, I was in Place du Forum - which is a kind of square with lots of restaurants and bars in it. TVs had been set up all over so everyone in the square was able to see the game from some angle or another. The Place was PACKED full of people. It was hard to move but everyone in the crowd was still in good spirits. It was amazing to me to see an entire group of people together for one event supporting the same team. [The closest comparison in the United States is the Super Bowl when it is the full country versus the New England Patriots - haha!] Anytime France (l’equipe Française) got close to the goal, the whole crowd cheered together. Anytime Croatia got close to their goal, the whole crowd stressed together. It was almost as if we were one family of fans! It was absolutely amazing.
As the game progressed, you could feel the tension rising. Everyone was getting so excited. France was doing so well! At halftime, everyone was feeling good because the score was 2-1 us. Then as we scored the 3rd point about 59 minutes it, the energy rose even further. It was beautiful. Everyone cheered and there wasn’t one frown in the whole city, probably the whole country. It was unbelievable. A TWO POINT LEAD? Incroyable. Then only 6 minutes later, ANOTHER GOAL?! The happiness and joy in the Place and in this country could not have been contained at that moment.
When the game drew closer to the end, the energy continued to swell. There was a countdown as the time shrank until the very end, “Cinq! Quatre! Trois! Deux! Un!” After that final buzzer rang, the place finally exploded. People lit torches, people screamed, people sang. No one could believe France had actually done it!
After the win, the whole Place played songs. There was a chorus of “We Are the Champions!” echoing throughout the city while the players on TV sang it as well. After the song finished, 4 men went onto a balcony above a restaurant and exploded champagne bottles into the crowd! We stayed in the plaza dancing and celebrating with everyone, until we were able to see the Cup actually handed over to Macron and the team on TV, then, filled with joy, we walked home.
The walk home was just as celebratory. Every car we passed beeped their entire drive. They all had flags out the windows or PEOPLE sitting on the windshield OUTSIDE the car! No one could be contained.
After I ate dinner that night, I fell asleep to the sound of celebratory car horns, beeping all night long as they drove past. It was absolutely one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my entire life.
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<p>In 7th grade, I memorized the name of every single nation of the world and in my life, I travel to as many of them as possible. I like to read, write, run, and play French horn in my free time.</p>