Thursday, 12 June 2014

The moment I became a France supporter!



July 1, 2006; the day that bound me as a France follower and a lifelong Gooner for life, hopefully. I'm not one for sentimentality, but I perfectly remember that day.

It was the day France were to face off Brazil in the World Cup quarters, the first World Cup match I ever saw.

I was staying at my mother's friend's house, along with her husband and two children, both of them significantly older to me. That family being Anglo-Indian, they were naturally hard-on footie fanatics, which kind of set the scene for the match. People tend to forget that football is more than watching it on the telly, it's about hanging out with fellow football fans, bickering, bragging and making a day of it.

Anyway, most of the people in the house were supporting Brazil (even my mother, who barely watches football!). Why wouldn't they? Brazil had the aura of invincibility, and were nailed-on favourites to finish as finalists, at least. Having Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Dida and Arsenal-man Gilberto Silva in the same side was frightening.

Course, my mom knew nothing of this. She only supported Brazil because they were poor. Go figure, a sympathy fan.

But hey, I didn't know anything about football then either. However, watching everyone support Brazil seemed to have a reverse psychological effect on me, and all of a sudden I found myself supporting the underdog, France. I knew that they had barely any chance of winning the match, but I wanted to stand out of the crowd. Besides, I had recognized Thierry Henry in French colours from Arsenal, as I has seen the Champions League Final of 2006, the final that my cousin made me watch. That kind of increased my support for France.

I distinctly remember my mother almost bribing me, telling me that she'd gift me a Brazil T-Shirt if I reconsidered my support. I defiantly refused, more out of intrigue than anything. Why was everyone supporting Brazil, and how did this footballistically iconic side gain everyone's support in a trice? My fear for Brazil grew, and I didn't think that France would have the stomach to beat them.

But screw it.

I chose my side, and I was too stubborn to switch it. I would close my eyes and dig my heels deeper into the ground if need be, that's how stubborn I was. As the teams came out of the tunnel, I understood exactly why Brazil were claimed to be the best footballing nation in the world. They had classy players, and my Anglo-Indian relatives were mocking my choice after seeing their star-studded starting line-up.

Ninety minutes later, and France have just beaten the best team in the world. 1-0 to them, courtesy of a Thierry Henry goal. How symbolic. Imagine the scenes. Imagine the SCENES.

I just sat there, amazed. After the heartbreak of the CL Final of 2006, this was only the second match I had seen, and it had delivered one of the most memorable footballing moment in my life. That Henry goal sealed my love for Arsenal and created a new bonding for France. It was the moment I became a football fan. It almost felt like destiny that I would be an Arsenal supporter and a France fan.

I may be the only football fan in India who holds loyalty towards a footballing nation, as I may be the only football fan who actually liked Pitbull's FIFA song. But what can I say? That goal against Brazil was an important marker in my life. I have an Arsenalish bond towards France, even though I don't know much about the country. Perhaps it was because they taught me that anything could happen in football in swashbuckling style.

This World Cup in particular excites me. I'm naive enough to believe that France have a decent shot at this, particularly because we're underdogs. And regardless of where they finish, I'll be with them when they're at Russia in 2018.

Because that's what football fans do. Football is much more than skills and passes and goals and Ronaldos, it's also about loyalty, honor, pride and sportsmanship. It's about sticking by your side in the darkest days, and it's about wearing the jersey you support of, like royalty.

Bring on Brazil. I can't wait.

P.S. I won't be blogging much on this site, but you'd find a lot of World Cup stuff on Brangled Minds where I'll be contributing. Check that out.

Have a great day, get some Pringles and pizza!

-Santi (Follow me on Twitter @ArsenalBlogz)