I was definitely kicking goals (or should I say GOOOOOALS) of my own when the stars aligned to be in Paris just in time for the FIFA World Cup final.
I can admit, I am not the biggest football fan but this massive sporting event is one I get into every four years (alongside a large amount of the world’s population I’m sure). My why would be to witness the craziness, the passion, the raw emotions on people’s faces when their team wins (or loses), when goals are nearly scored or how the wrong call was made – its all just so intense but exciting at the same time. When you think about it, its crazy to think the talents and actions of 22 almost superhuman men on a pitch and one ball can unite the masses together in such a remarkable way (I am talking about the positives here).
Last time the FIFA World Cup came around, I was backpacking my way through Thailand, residing in Koh Tao. I was mixing diving with late night bar hangs to watch the games unfold with most often than not, a cheeky Chang beer in tow. Of course, now I understand why a Chang beer has a certain reputation – they aren’t just called Chang Overs for nothing! I watched that epic game where host country Brazil faced that humiliating semi-final defeat against Germany – now that was possibly the most cringe-worthy game I have ever watched. If you want to be reminded of it all, please check out the link below and possibly have the tissues on standby if you are the emotive-over-football kind.
Watching the 2014 final was unusual. I was partying it up along the shores of Koh Pha Ngan for the Full Moon Party. Despite the raving, many of us party revellers watching the game on a massive screen on the beach. Commentary was replaced thunderous bass line drops so it was quite a bizarre way to watch it – mixing late night rampant shenanigans with football. That could be an epic win for everyone right? Everyone was dancing up a storm and I was surrounded mostly by young, drunken but oh so excited Germans. It was probably for the best they won or the surrounding sea levels would have gone up a notch from the tears that would have flowed.
Fast forward to 2018 and let’s replace the Germans with their European counterpart, the Frenchies. Along with my Parisian friend Laure, we went to a bar and restaurant-filled plaza that was brimming with people. Many bars had set up extra screens outside and DIY platforms making IKEA furniture look like the stuff of luxury. Old door panels and pirate-like wooden planks on sat on empty kegs, with the latter made that extra bit sturdy with gaffer tape. If I wanted to risk my life, I probably would have been standing on it. If we were to be honest with ourselves, none of these questionable art worthy pieces of furniture to the French (they see art in everything!) were never going to make it past midnight.
Thousands upon thousands lined the plaza to watch the game on whatever screen they could. The crowd was on mosh-pit levels. The first goal scored was unbelievable with the atmosphere amongst the crowd euphoric. It was almost as if this was going to be the French Revolution 2.0 with the amount of excitement in the air (or 3.0 you include the previous World Cup win). People chanting, jumping up and down and singing in French for over 90 minutes was quite something. Come half time, I went to get my second pint for the game (slow drinker I know) but to my astonishment and disappointment (and of many others), the bar ran out of tap beer! Shock horror! I feel that if that was in Australia or the UK that would never happen – blasphemous! Crisis over as the nearby Italian restaurant would help aid my desire for continual beer consumption for the day.
After the final whistle, all things were a riot as it was party time in Paris. The excitement of seeing the French win literally took some people to new heights with some opting to climb trees to continue their celebrations. Then there were other just as jubilant people mountaineering cars to suss out the street party below. I felt for the poor bugger that would discover their car having a newly moulded roof top as a result from all the celebrating. What goes up must come down as on street level, the DIY platform had its final whistle blown as it came crashing down, taking down six happy revellers. Happy to report no one was harmed (kind of surprised about that!)
A massive French flag soon engulfed a large portion of the crowd as it ran through the centre of the plaza. Soon enough, along with other Frenchies, we were all walking through a main street with people going crazy left, right and centre – marching on for its epic win. People banged the windows of cars as they snailed right through the crowd on the street. Horns, beeps, whistles and chants was the new music to all. People even got out of cars, popped out of their sunroofs to dance and wave the flag around. Some drivers even encouraged others to jump on their car bonnet to get in on the action.
This street was now party point central. I joined in on some ‘Intersection Limbo’ action and knocked my back out in the process – should really work on my flexibility there! As this was all happening, two guys on a scooter paraded through the crowd with one holding up a raw chicken, beating its wings together in excitement. Now that was a hilarious and warped sight!
This epic one street march across Paris (via a McDonald’s pit stop because I am classy like that) ended up at Place de la Republique (Republic Square). By this stage, it was dark and it seemed like the whole of Paris was slowly coming together at this central point. The square’s monument had now been converted into the city’s Mount Everest with daring people cascading its three statues of liberty, equality and fraternity under the watchful eye of Marianne standing on top – her values reinforced by all of us below.
Meanwhile, drums were banging, fireworks were being shot into the air and there were non-stop continuous chants. I had never experienced anything like it – a city that goes into party mode, were people take liberties to do almost anything (climbing, peeing near cars on the street, standing on top of scooters while riding through the city to name a few eccentric acts). This was special, super wild and one epic win I would never forget – Vive La France!
Just a side note: I saw no violence whatsoever – everyone was in good spirits from all the places where I celebrated the win. Its sad that people do get violent and unfortunately, some lost their lives. That should never happy in a time of uniting in celebration.