sorry for your team...(5th of World (FIFA) that is a
bisous de france
i write you later after we win the world cup
-Matthieu B., in an email to me
As predicted by some of our French friends, the US is down and out of this World Cup, in no small thanks to their inability to create offense. So now my sights turn to the remaining teams. It seems that nearly each country gives me a reason to root for them. Here are some of my favorites (In no particular order)…
Germany – This is an easy one. My people. I am a Wittgens, the child of a German immigrant. Before his family fled the Russian occupation, then emigrated to the US, my dad spent his youth in East(ern) Germany playing fussball in the streets and rooting on Borussia Dortmund. Surely the host nation has my Deutschland heart. I think... They sure looked brilliant against Sweden, I would not be unhappy if they took it all this year.
France – Mon pays deuxieme. You don’t spend 4 months in, amidst, around a country like France and not love it, at least not if you’re Jeff and Katie Weaver. We watched Ligue 1 matches with friends, saw the national rugby team play live, drank Pastis, and trash-talked about soccer. As Matthieu kindly pointed out, our team didn’t live up to the hype, mais franchement...neither have les bleus so far. I still have to root for them though, at least their rouge, blanc et bleu made the 2nd round.
To have France pitted against Spain (Tuesday afternoon) is a difficult quandary. Spain is like my forbidden fruit. The one nation in Europe that most intrigues me, and the only mainland nation where I can speak the native tongue, yet I’ve never been there. I have good friends from Spain and I really love Manchego cheese. But I must raise a glass of Bordeaux rather than Tempranillo for this confrontation.
England – Another of football’s alleged superpowers who have looked less than stellar this tournament. From a pure aesthetic standpoint, the boys in red and white have possibly the best looking team on the pitch, and a charming feature film named after one of their stars. I’ve lived in England for a spell, watched many a Hyde Park pick-up game, and even taken in a Tottenham match at Whiteheart Lane. I know how much pride the English have for their footie. Take it from our favorite ex-pat in London (check out his Blackgate Blog!). I'm sure there will be utter devastation (and lots of drinking) the day England loses.
Speaking of drinking... The keeper on my recreational team is English. He showed up for our game the other night after 5 hrs and even more pints at the pub watching his boys battle. Best part is, he kept an amazing game for us, helping us win. Gotta love the English.
Switzerland – Perhaps Jeff's and my favorite country in Europe. God lives in those mountains (right Michael S.?!). I’ve had some of my most memorable experiences in Switzerland, as has Jeff. The
cheeses, chalets, they all seem near heaven to me. I don’t think the Swiss have a yodler's chance to win the Cup (don't know what that means but it's got a nice ring); however, for their next match vs. Ukraine, I'll pick chocolate over borscht. Allez les Suisses.
Brazil – They epitomize the beautiful game. The yellow clad artists show gamesmanship and skill unlike other teams. And their team is favored to win this thing again. The culture of Brazil intrigues me: soccer and samba, carnivale and caparinhas, and on and on. I was a Latin-American studies minor in college, but never visited Brazil or learned Portuguese. I’ve heard that if you visit, you’ll never want to leave. I have friends from Brazil, and friends living in Brazil (more on them later...we hope to visit this fall.) I even have a small Brazilian flag. I need an excuse to wave it some more, so I’ll pick them to move on, probably to the finals.
Australia – The Socceroos have a cute name. Their fans boo like our US fans (all the others’ whistle when their angry). Or maybe their just yelling “kangaROOOO”. (I apologize for those who’ve heard that “joke” already from me.) The Aussie’s have played with such grit and excitement that they’ve probably converted longtime cricket and rugby fans into soccer crazies. Plus, who understands that Australian rules football anyway? I’ve got friends (okay, and an old flame) who’re Oz, and they love their country and will be feverishly rooting on their boys to victory at some ungodly hour in the streets of Sydney. While I love Gelato as much as the next person, I'd love to see Vegemite nation triumph in the upcoming Aussie-Italy clash (Monday).
And a word on Ghana – The Black Stars knocked out my US team. However, as I stood kavetsching with friends about our missed chances, I realized that whatever doom or frustration I've felt is SO far eclipsed by the sheer joy in the entire nation of Ghana, it makes it easier to take. My highschool biology teacher was from Ghana. A friend and co-worker once lived in Ghana. Plus, I'm a sucker for the underdog. All said, I think their next opponent (Brazil) is just too good.
So, there is my culinary, cultural, and virtually un-strategic reasons for picking favorites.
And finally..for a TRUE insider view and wonderful commentary on the world cup proceedings, and Europe in general, visit Andrew and Donna Helms' blog. They're back home stateside now, but their fan-hood and fun euro experiences make great blogging. (I should know, Weaver blog has gone way downhill since we left inspiring France).
So who are you pulling for?