On Tuesday night, France played Belgium in the semifinals of the World Cup. I’m telling you this because, if you’re American, you probably have no idea that the rest of the world has spent most of the past month riveted to their TVs, drinking beer and wearing silly hats in their country’s colors. You’re missing out.
Normally the decision who to root for would have been easy: France, my adopted for-the-year home country, obviously. But it wasn’t quite that simple, because Colin and I happened to be in Belgium.
What? Did I fail to mention that?
Yep, we’re here in the land of beer, chocolate, and waffles this week! Our wedding anniversary was a few days ago, so that seemed like a good excuse to take a train trip somewhere, and Colin has a few collaborators and friends at the University of Antwerp, so we decided on Belgium. We spent one night in the charming town of Bruges, one night in Ghent, and now we’re hanging out in Antwerp. We were in Ghent the night of the big game.
When in Belgium, do as the Belgians do: we cheered for Belgium.
But, oh, I had such conflicted emotions! Belgium has a very, very good team this year and the Belgians at the bar where we watched the game were so friendly and excited that we didn’t want their team to lose. The city streets were deserted during the game, and restaurant kitchens closed so no one would have to work where they couldn’t see a screen—that’s how much the Belgians cared. But, on the other hand, France: Paris had just set up a big screen at Hôtel de Ville (city hall) for the semifinal, and we wouldn’t get to watch a game on it unless France won and advanced to the final. I could barely handle the tension.
In the end, the game was fantastic and the teams very evenly matched. Belgium lost 0-1, and the Belgians were very sad, but they were good sports about it. France won 1-0, so now Colin and I get to go back to Paris just in time for the Bastille Day parties on Friday and Saturday and the championship game on Sunday. Paris is going to be an absolute zoo this weekend. Wish us luck, and vive la France!
In the meantime, though: good game, Belgium, and thanks for all the beer and waffles. We’ll be rooting for you for third place!