Why The Final Match Doesn’t Matter
But the World Cup Does
It’s evening in Galway Ireland. At long last, the world cup final is here. My friends and I arrive at the end of the match for 3rd place. Already the pub is packed. We wander upstairs and pray to god that there are seats up there.
Even worse, it smells a bit like a stale gym locker. But, we, like so many American college students, are studying abroad. We may be in Ireland, (a country that didn’t even qualify for the world cup) but we’re in Europe. We’ll drink, we’ll stand, and we’ll watch. And keep an eye out for an open table.
No table ever opens up. I give up, choosing to sit on the floor. As the final begins, the bar gets more packed, and the smell of sweat rises. At this point, I realize the demographics of the bar. Somehow the crowd appears to be a quarter Dutch and half Spanish.
My paranoid mind now sees me dying by accident in a bar fight. I can already hear my mother mourning me and guilt tripping my expatriated body.
The game is dirty. The Spanish and Dutch both think the refs are idiots and don’t know anything. I rub my eyes to make sure I’m watching soccer and not football.
Finally the match ends: Spain wins. The bar roars, and the ground rumbles under us as the crowd begins to jump and dance. The singing and dancing continue through the night, through all the streets of Galway.
Through the streets the Spanish sang: Campeón, campeón ole ole ole!
Out on the street, I realized: this celebration was what I came to see. It was living joy. Only a die-hard Red Sox fan would understand their enthusiasm. That night, history had been made. Perhaps not the kind that would alter the course of human history. But one the entire world witnessed.
The world cup isn't important because of the teams playing it. We, the viewers, make it important. That night, I got to be a part of a global event, a sight rarely seen in the United States.
For a moment, I was connected with millions of other people. For one night, I got to witness a nation rejoice.
I couldn't tell you who scored the winning goal. I couldn't tell you who played a better game. Yet I can’t forget the roar of victory. I won’t forget the singing and dancing. And I can’t wait to witness that kind of victory happen all over again.