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Football Fever

By - June 19, 2006 (Updated: November 29, 2014)


Here in Europe, you’d have to live under a rock to not notice that the World Cup is in progress, but those who live on the rocks back home in Eastern Canada aren’t even likely to know what the World Cup is all about.

Football fever has hit Europe and even though the Belgian team has failed to qualify, it’s hard to miss the buzz.

Walking down the street and peering into window displays you can see clothing, banners and even food sporting a football theme. (Chocolate soccer balls anyone?)

Back home in Canada, football isn’t even the same sport. To us, football is a bunch of beefy guys in loads of padding trying to tackle one another. European football is called soccer and it’s a sport many Canadians play in school, but few follow it on a national level — probably because we’re too busy watching Hockey Night in Canada.

The Canadian National Soccer Team has only made it to the World Cup once, back in 1986. It was quite a showing. It seems that we failed to score one goal and finished dead last.

I am assured by Wikipedia that our team has been rebuilding itself with younger players in the hopes of making it to World Cup 2010 and that we have a strong women’s team.

I’ll have to take their word for it. I confess as I’ve never been much of a sports fan. I was always one of the final kids chosen for team sports (just before the class bully and the kid who picked his nose and flung boogers at the girls — thank goodness I wasn’t last).

I may never fully understand soccer (or football for that matter), but it’s hard not to get swept up in ‘Football Fever’ here on the continent. Frankly, the fervour of the football fans fascinates me.

My first experience with European football was watching the Dutch national team, Oranje, play against the Americans, in Amsterdam.

It was like being at a convention of hunters. I have never seen so much bright orange in my life. Then there were the hats — everything from inflatable windmills to giant stuffed lion’s heads. It was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement.

Even though the Belgian team failed to qualify for the World Cup this year (for the first time in 28 years), there is no shortage of football in Brussels. Fans of every team imaginable compete for seats in pubs with big screen TVs.

Andrew and I caught the US v Czech game from a picnic table in Place Luxemburg. There was beer and BBQ and loads of competition for seats. Although there was lots of English spoken around us, the fans seemed to be cheering loudly for both teams.

Once the game was over and the English patrons started leaving, their places were quickly snapped up by Italians waiting for the next game.

I may never be a huge sports fan, but I have to admit, an outdoor pub in Brussels is a much nicer place to enjoy a game than a freezing hockey rink.

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