I didn't really have plans to watch the World Cup final. The idea of being trampled by exuberant crowds sort of put me off the idea. But yesterday afternoon a French friend invited me to watch the match with a bunch of friends, which sounded so darned civilized I agreed to meet him there at 7:30pm.
Remembering the cancellation of bus service and the electricity cuts in the Metro (people kept falling onto the tracks in their "party" state), I thought it might be a good night to dust off the bike. I rarely ride it in the city, it's more of a country bike (a cross between a mountain bike and a street bike). But even though those comfy Dutch-style cruisers are more lady-like (and only €175 at Go Sport), I have an emotional attachment to my vélo (I rode it from Minneapolis to Chicago when I graduated from college), so I won't be switching anytime soon.
I'm the one with the helmet on. And sometimes even cycling gloves (I hate calluses) if it's not too hot. I have a side mirror so I can see how close the busses are to squashing me. I didn't get on the road until 7:30pm, and the streets were already practically empty, everyone piled into cafés and bars and restaurants to see the match. The few vehicles on the road were honking, many with passengers brandishing huge flags -- French or Italian -- from the window. I arrived at the apartment two seconds before the French captain Zinedine Zidane scored the team's only goal.
The rest of the match, as you all know, was very exciting, a real nail-biter. During the pauses we all (mostly French, plus me and a guy who was half-American and half-Spanish) went out onto the balcony overlooking the street. A suspiciously huge French flag hung from the balustrade ("Which library did you steal this from?"). We all agreed that even if France didn't win, they were playing a good game.
Then what happened? Who knows. Rampant speculation. Zidane, in the final minutes of overtime, lost his cool with one of the Italian players and head-butted him in the solar plexus. Ouchie. It was actually kinda funny, like he was one of those characters from He-Man (Ram-Man...I had to look that up). Not so funny a few seconds later when the red card came out and he retired (literally), head down, to the lockers. Such a sad ending for one of the legends of the World Cup, everyone said (because no matter why he did it -- rumors of racial slur, of being hit in his injured shoulder, etc. -- losing one's cool is never cool).
Okay, I just looked at the FIFA Official World Cup site, and Zidane has been voted Best Player for the 2006 World Cup!! Hooray Zizou! That's a much more fitting end to the career of such a great player and (aside from the obvious glitch) role model for Franco-Arab kids -- hell, ALL kids!
Post note: In a typical linguistical faux pas of hilarious proportions, I referred to Zidane as "Zizi". As my French friend kindly pointed out, that means something else. ;)