Christmas Day in Saudi Arabia

It is Friday June 11 and I am in a festive mood. The World Cup begins today. I haven’t had a television for years but I am not about to let that get in the way.  My three year old son and I drive to Harvard Square and go to the Department of African and African American studies at the Barker Center to see if the opening game is being shown there.

The building is deserted except for two men mowing the lawn. We leave as quickly as we arrive, desperate to see the game, and try several other places before finding a bar showing the game but by now we’ve missed the first half.

The bar owner warmly welcomes us and gives my son a bar of chocolate. There are about fifteen people watching the game: two Latin looking women supporting Mexico, a tanned white guy supporting South Africa — he turns out to be an American who got his love for the game from years of living in England. “Are you a soccer fan or South African fan?” he asks. “A bit of both” I reply. Where was I from?   I told him that I was from Somalia. The rest of the people support whoever gets a good shot at goal.

This  is my first real world cup in Massachusetts. I say real because,
the year I moved to Boston in 2004 the Red Sox won the World Series. I remember my husband and I trying to watch it but after ten minutes we thought better of it;  we neither understood nor cared. The following day I heard that the Red Sox won for the first time in almost 90 years. I was pleased for them, but within two days I had even forgotten the name of the game that the Red Sox had won. Trying to recall it while talking to a few American friends, I turned to my husband and asked “what’s the name of the game that Boston won the other day?” My friends thought I was teasing them. I was not.

I noticed my local well-kept cemetery was covered with newspapers, it wasn’t like one or two bits blown in by the wind, it looked like it had rained The Boston Globe. I later discovered that these papers were brought there intentionally by Red Sox fans, to their relatives and friends who had not lived to see this day. News so powerful that being dead  was not a good enough excuse to miss it.

To Americans, baseball, American football and basketball are what football is to the rest of the world. They call it soccer and no one understands or cares about it. Watching matches in my local bars feels a little like being in Saudi Arabia on Christmas day. I found a way to watch the matches on my laptop on our deck with my son.  There’s more passion flying here than anywhere else in Boston.

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