The Most Incredibly Amazing Sports Game of All Time
“Soccer’s a girl’s sport…” This is what I hear more often than not when discussing one of my passions; football. All to often do people, especially here in the United States, misjudge the sport that has been a worldwide phenomenon since the late 18th century. I however, have a different opinion about the sport than many of my friends do. When one truly experiences football at its finest, played where its loved and with passion, there are few things that can top it. I have had such an experience at one point in my life.
The train was becoming increasingly more and more crowded with each stop we made. The train was very sparse with people as I got on, as usual, but instead of people getting off the farther out of town we got, more and more were filling the train. By the fifth or sixth stop, there were more people on the train than I had ever seen on this particular train line. I knew what they were all doing there and where their final destination was, but it was still amazing to me to see the amount of people packed on this regularly empty train.
This train line was going to the Stade de France, a gargantuan stadium built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, (a football event), right outside of Paris. It houses over 200,000 fans. The majority of the crowd on the train, had the same destination as I. With every individual that boarded the train, the more and more my heart began to pump with enthusiasm. Finally, as soon I started to become claustrophobic yet keyed up, our stop appeared to my right outside the window. As I departed onto the platform, all I saw, was a sea of blue jerseys.
The Stade was not too far in the distance, but I realized that it would take us a substantial amount of time to reach it, simply because of the huge crowds of fans. Along the way we passed several one-day kiosques selling scarves, jerseys, and other French football paraphernalia. Due to a serious problem of procrastination that I have, I did not yet have tickets to attend this event. My father and I figured we would be able to purchase tickets from scalpers along the way to the stadium. Right as we were marching down the train station walkway, we found our man. He was a young sketchy looking guy, and frantically waving tickets in the air. We immediately halted him and questioned him on the location and price of the tickets he was selling. They seemed reasonable, and so we purchased them, only to find out later that they were amazing positioning. We then continued on our walk down to the stadium.
More and more I became spellbound. Never had I seen so many people in one place in my short seventeen years of life. We located the section number on our tickets, and proceeded to find our way around the stadium. We eventually made an almost complete 360 circle walk around the Stade, when I realized we could have just walked about 50 yards instead of 500 yards, through thousands of sober and some not so sober fans. The little walk had not only areobic benefits, but I got to more fully experience the crowds and their traditions. What amazed actually came not from my fans, the French, but the Ukrainian fans. It astonished me that they would come all the way from Ukraine to support these eleven men. It was not just one or two fans however, there were several hundred Ukrainians there drinking and smoking their large pipes. After I got a thorough screening by a large black man, and I mean thorough, we were allowed into the stadium. Immediately I hear the roar of thousands and my stomach filled up with joy which must be weightless because I felt lighter than air with enchantment. We located our seats, and took our places. The seats were not bad at all for scalpers. Just as we sat down, I hear La Marseilles begin.
As the French national anthem was being sung very heartily, a large blue piece of heavy material was being pulled over my head, and across the whole end of our section. I estimated it covered five to six thousand people when it was finally stretched to its full capacity.. This huge object is a large blue Maillot, French for jersey, that is pulled over the North end of the stadium for every game. Never had I heard a national anthem sung quite so loud or with such vigor. I realize now, I had not heard anything yet.
The two teams then entered the stadium on the center of the field. Each player walked out along the center line holing a child’s hand with the center field line representing equality and the child’s hands representing fairness. The kids are escorted off the field after both national anthems are completed, and the players line up according to their position. Instantly, from the battle cry of an uproar, it becomes eerily silent. The referee blows his whistle, and it becomes louder than ever. Now, I figured that this game would be like most games that I had attended before. Whether it be American football, baseball, or basketball, they all quieted down and then got loud when it got exciting. This however, was not the case. While it was not as loud when there were slow parts, that is not to say that it was quiet by any means. There was a constant cheer, chant, song, taunt, rejoicing, whistling, (which is booing in football), or a combination of any of the above. Down four or five rows and to the left a bit was a man dressed in a large rooster costume that was sporting a blue French jersey. He had a large drum that hung off his shoulders. This drum was not without a stick pounding on it for more than ten seconds the entire length of the game. There were several chants and cheers, all of which I remember to this day. While all this was going on in the stands, there was a still a game being played down on the field.
It was shortly before halftime that the first goal of the night came. A nice pass from a midfielder, Nasri, to another midfielder, Ribery, set up a perfect goal. The eruption in the stadium was electrifyingly sensational. Everyone in the stadium had been given a large, not miniature, French flag. As I looked across the stadium, all I saw was a sky full of red, white, and blue dynamically waving to and fro. As we all jumped up and down for the next several minutes, there was a constant shout of joy. I was positive that all of France could hear us, and I knew that they too were up on their feet screaming at their television screens all across the nation. The drums, scattered throughout the stadium, could barley be heard incessantly beating over and over again as the stadium ignited with heartiness. Half time came to a close and another eruption of cheers came forth for the performance of Les Bleus, the nickname for the French team.
During the second half, there was another French goal, which put them two points ahead of the Ukrainians. I did not think it was possible, but at this point, the stadium had reached the height of its decibel level. By the last five minutes, the yellow Ukrainians, knew they could not come up with anything. Their fan section knew it as well. Suddenly, I look up and directly across the stadium and I see six bright red lights. As I look closer, I realize the Ukrainian fans had brought flares. They are generally used in a celebratory act, but they were just providing themselves some last -ditch condolence. The flare is a commonly used spectacle used by fans in European football; the only problem is, the team the fans belong to gets fined a considerable amount of money. They did not care, and neither did I, my team had dominated their’s The final whistle blew, and once again the stadium burst into cheers and yells. I exited the Stade to La Marseilles again. As we were walking down the street back to the train station, random people would start a cheer or chant, and suddenly hundreds of people nearby would chime in providing celebration for hours to come. People were jumping up and down cheering everywhere across the city, and presumably, across France.
Never in my life had I been in a more exhilarating situation. The fans were remarkable, and instantly cherished you if you too were a fan of the French national team. The camaraderie created at these events is absolutely incredible. I have been to exciting sporting events, such as the BYU vs. Utah game last season, but nothing compares to the way they do it in football. There was a force at that game that drew me in instantly, and would make anyone fall in love with the sport and its infatuation.