Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zidane over la butte?

Paris, France - Saturday 8th July

I've been here around six hours now, mostly spent walking round soaking up the atmosphere. What atmosphere though? No-one seems to know there's a football match on tomorrow let alone the FIFA World Cup final. I've only seen six people wearing French shirts, one of them being an English boy on the Eurostar and another was me. If this was London and England playing in the final I imagine there would be a sea of red and white everywhere

There seems to be little interest in the bars either, perhaps it will pick up tomorrow...

Paris, France - Sunday 9th July

Last night Leah wasn't sure where we should watch the game, L' Hotel de Ville didn't seem to have a big screen up though I found out there was one at the Parc des Princes - quite a long way on the Metro though. So I started to ask everyone I met where they were watching it. Most of them said in a bar but it was the response of my (English) waiter at lunch which was most intriguing "Whatever you do, stay away from the Champs Elysees. I was there in '98 and it was mental, you won't be able to move after the game".

So I finished up my lunch, went back to the hotel to put my France shirt on and headed straight for the Champs Elysees. The buzz was phenomenal, people just seemed to be driving up and down papping their horns and waving drapeau tricolore:

I saw quite a few cars pass me twice on my way from the Arc D' Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde and back, petrol must be cheap in France! I started to explore some of the side streets in an attempt to find a suitable venue - it wasn't too hard and I soon got cracking on the Kriek framboise beer and talking away to the French in the bar as best I could.

About half an hour before kick-off the bar started to get really packed, people were sitting in the street outside and watching the TV through a mirror in the bar. The riot police parked their van outside a bar opposite so they could watch. La Marseillaise was rousing and it soon became apparent that we had a trumpet, a drum and an air-horn in the bar - when France got and scored the early penalty all three were used to good effect and you could hear similar sounds echoing round the streets.

You all know the story of the game the crowd in the bard couldn't believe Zidane had been sent-off for the head-butt, they seemed to think it was harsh and I feigned some sympathy as it was clearly a lot worse than Rooney's transgression. "Zizou, Zizou" was chanted almost constantly for the rest of the game and we had another chorus of La Marseillaise during extra time as France looked like settling it before penalties.

Penalties did indeed arrive though and I thought about leaving lest I bring some of the English luck to mes amis. It was not to be and the bar emptied promptly and swiftly and I followed the herd to the Champs Elysees to sample the reaction:

The crowd clearly weren't overly happy and the riot police looked a bit much for me so I fled pretty quickly back to my hotel. I don't think there was much trouble but I was just a little unsure which way things would go in such an alien country. I met a gaggle of Italians on the way back and they seemed a bit lairy at first but once I explained I was English and said "congratulazioni" a few times we had some hugs and on I went.

The French are an enigma to me, they don't wear their heart on their sleeve as much as us lot, it's a much more Laissez-Faire attitude. I had a wonderful time though and it was a fitting end to what for me has been an emotional and perhaps even life-changing four weeks.

I'll try and some it all up in the next few days, I can't really find the right word right now.

Congratulazioni Italia,


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Now itis sadly all over for another 4 years, can I interest you in Fantasy Football for the domestic season?

Set up your team at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/

I already have my team selected and raring to go, although I may have to make some transfers over the coming weeks.
I'll set up a friend's league if you're interested so we can play against each other.
Its all free to enter although it might make things more interesting if we put a small amount into a prize pot??
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