By Cosima Schreiber
Roses are red. Violets are blue. Soccer is life. Sorry, boo.
[SCHREIBER]: This is True Stories in Sound. I’m Cosima Schreiber
In 2006 I met a boy and fell in love. Somehow he convinced me to attend his sister’s wedding which was on the day of the World Cup finals between Italy and France. Even though he wasn’t a soccer fan and couldn’t fathom my love for the game, I thought I could be the hero and come through for my boyfriend on this important day. I would charm his family and friends. We’d dance the night away. Everything would be perfect.
I still remember that night so clearly. I was wearing the most beautiful, blue ball gown that shimmered and sparkled with every step I took. My hair had been teased and curled to perfection. I was the epitome of grace and class as I met one family member after another. I had his dad cracking up at my sports puns and his mom and I bonded over our love of high tea. This was the night Zidane and I were going to dominate. He was going out on top, the greatest of all time. And I was going in with all the potential in the world.
But ever since that night and everything that happened, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be in a relationship with someone who is not a soccer fan. Like me and my best friend Laura.
[ROY]: Uh I think I was at Toyota Park for maybe it was a soccer game? (Laughter) Uh, I know that I was there for a Jimmy Buffet concert. (Laughter) Uhm, but I think, I think there was a time that there was a soccer game there and I think I was there…
[SCHREIBER]: So that’s Roy. Laura’s boyfriend. Roy knows absolutely nothing about soccer just like my ex. Except where my boyfriend didn’t even want to try and learn about my passion, Roy has always made an effort to at least try and understand the sport.
[SCHREIBER]: Do you know how many players are on the fields at one time?
[ROY]: Uh, 8? (Laughter). Well wait, 8 per team. (Laughter) Is that not right? Oh my god.
[LAURA]: There’s 11. Including the goalie. So 10 and the goalie.
[ROY]: Ok (yeah). I was close.
[LAURA]: That’s not far.
[SCHREIBER]: Laura says one of the reasons it works between them even though it’s a big inconvenience that Roy doesn’t really understand the game is humor and patience. She always takes the time to decode the game for him. Looking back, I think that may have been one of my biggest problems. I never really explained why I loved soccer so much. What it really means to me.
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: Hello everybody welcome to the World Cup Final of 2006. The 18th final since the very first one that was played in Uruguay 76 years ago. And here we are everyone talking. The hype has all been about Zinedine Zidane and whether he can go out on a real high.
[SCHREIBER]: It all went downhill the moment we got to the reception. Suddenly the reality of missing a World Cup Final hit me hard and I went into panic mode. I overheard the catering staff speaking in Spanish and French, two of my primary languages, and immediately befriended them. These were my people! They knew the importance of watching every game, time zones and obligations be damned. Exactly like another one of my best friends Andrea…
[ANDREA]: Yeah I remember in 2002, which is when it was, the cup was in Japan. At three in the morning, you know definitely watching games early.
[SCHREIBER]: These were the people who knew how inherently soccer was tied to culture, lifestyle and identity. These were the fellow fans who screamed when their teams scored, who got in fights if someone insulted one of their players and even cried when their teams lost.
[ANDREA]: And Brazil lost I guess that must have been to the Netherlands. I don’t know. I hadn’t experienced grown men crying the way that they did with that loss. And then you could totally sense the whole country was in tears.
[SCHREIBER]: It’s not just about you. It’s about your country and your loyalties. It’s about watching the game with family and friends and forging ties and memories that will last a lifetime. It’s sharing the emotions, good and bad, and feeling something so deeply that you can’t even express how deep your love for the game runs. My boyfriend was a self-proclaimed WASP whose favorite extracurricular activities were polo and suppressing his emotions. I cannot even begin to tell you how boring it is to watch grown men canter around on horses in really fancy outfits.
So I explained my predicament to the waiters and we came up with a game plan. For every five minutes that I was in the reception the staff would secretly wheel me out in a food trolley so I could watch the game in the kitchen with the cooks for 10 minutes. Each half is 45 minutes so effectively I would get to watch 30 out of 45 minutes per half.
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: Now it’s a chance for Malouda. He’s down! Penalty! A penalty for the French. And Zinedine Zidane will have a chance to get a penalty in the final in Berlin. Zinedine Zidane here. OH! Across the line. It’s a goal. But how lucky almost was that. How casual. How cheeky.
[SCHREIBER]: We were screaming! I was hugging kitchen staff and chefs like they were family. This game was so exciting and Zidane was starting off his last game on the right foot. Here he was making an audacious penalty, living up to his star power, and wowing the world.
When they brought me back out, I did a commando roll out of the cart and jumped right back into the fray. I danced with my boyfriend and dazzled his mother. Everything was perfect. The drinks were plentiful, the energy was high and everyone was having fun. I was actually going to pull off this night and get to watch my beloved game while also getting full points for being a great girlfriend.
I made it to the kitchen just in time for the second goal, my gown was starting to look a little worse for the wear, and my hair was definitely getting flattened by the cart but I didn’t care. It was exciting to be so covert, it was amazing to watch this game with other soccer fanatics, and the teams were playing their hearts out. I was in heaven.
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: And we’ve also got a little bit of a skirmish in the middle of penalty area which the referee has sorted out. Pirlo’s corner. Italy trailing by a goal. OH! And they’ve leveled it. It’s tied! The big fellow from the back….
[SCHREIBER]: The rest of the regulation 90 minutes went by relatively smoothly. I think my boyfriend began to suspect something when I said I had to go fix my hair for like the 5th time in an hour, but I was being so lovely and attentive and we were having so much fun it seemed like he was willing to overlook my eccentricities. But then disaster struck in overtime…
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: Well there’s Zinedine Zidane oh and he…well! Well he’s just butted Materazzi in the middle of the chest. (Fade)
[SCHREIBER]: Oh god. I was heartbroken. Zidane was this monumental player, who put his heart on the field every single game. He was my hero and inspiration. And all of a sudden during his last game ever he’d suddenly messed up. The entire kitchen had gone entirely silent and we all watched Zidane leave the field stunned.
When I snuck back out onto the dance floor that time I was crushed. I think that is when my boyfriend finally caught on to what I was doing. We kept dancing but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I had left everything out on the field with Zidane. So when he left the game, I gave up. Something had broken.
When the game went to penalty kicks I was officially out. The wedding meant absolutely nothing to me. I had to see who would win the game. This was life or death.
Pirlo. Goal. Wiltord. Goal. Materazzi. Goal. Trezeguet…
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: Oooohhh. It’s not crossed the line. He’s missed. It definitely did not cross the line a la Zidane. And it’s the first miss. And it’s the advantage Italy.
[SCHREIBER]: France was down. The kitchen was in chaos. We were holding hands, unknowingly holding one another, screaming, crying.
De Rossi. Goal. Abidal. Goal. Del Pierro. Goal. Sagnol. Goal. And finally it was down Grosso. If he made it, Italy would win…
[WORLD CUP ANNOUNCER]: And all around the world, not just in Italy, there will be Italian people celebrating like crazy at the moment. And the sales of wine will definitely be boosted tonight.
[SCHREIBER]: There we were. This ragtag, international group. Screaming our heads off. This had been an insane game. Zidane was out. France with so much potential had lost it at the very end. We couldn’t believe it. But we had forged our own little family that night and survived the melee together.
Unfortunately, the night wasn’t over for me. When I got back to the wedding and as I was trying to quietly get out of the food cart I ended up stumbling on my dress and knocking over the very expensive and elaborate champagne tower that had been set up for the end of the wedding.
It was this horrible slow motion moment that I will never forget. I watched in horror as glass after glass shattered on the floor and this huge puddle of champagne began to seep into my shoes. And as I turned around the entire wedding group was staring at me.
Slowly my boyfriend walked over and then over the soundtrack of Gnarl’s Barkley singing “Crazy” he dumped me. Right in front of everyone he took my hand and looked me in the eyes and said “I really don’t get you at all. This excessive passion you have for soccer. It’s just not going to work for me”. He wasn’t even really mad. Just factual, he saw what I should have known from the beginning. There was just a fundamental difference between us that wasn’t going to let our relationship work. Soccer.
My friends always ask me, “Didn’t you feel like you should have dialed down your soccer fanaticism after that experience?” But truthfully, for a while, it made me think I should stick to European and Latin American men who shared my passion for soccer.
I know, I know. Relationships aren’t about dating your carbon copy. It’s about respecting your partner’s passions and caring about their interests even if they are different from your own. I’m pretty sure I can do that. But dear god when the time comes and I find the man of my dreams I hope I end up with a guy who loves soccer almost as much as he loves me.
Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions.