I'm not a soccer fan. I'm really, really not. I can count on one hand how many soccer games I've witnessed, and only ever in support of The Second + Third Quarters. So, I really didn't expect to watch the All Whites play Slovakia in their first game of the Fifa World Cup. But I did, thanks to The Fourth Quarter, and I did it in a pub packed with people, sitting close with The Square, all warm and happy. We took mock bets on who would win, and by how much. Some of us were patriotic. Some thought they were being realistic. Some were mad. At this point, I was happy to be somewhere warm, and was trying desperately not to fall asleep. But there is something pretty brilliant about the atmosphere of a crowd who so ready to support their national team on the world stage. It was SO easy to get caught up in the game, to be excited, to cheer when things were going well, to protest when it wasn't. To mock (with affection) the keeper who can't kick, and cheer in support when the same keeper stops the opposition from scoring. To yell insults and praise at a screen. The 'What are you doing?!'s and 'Down the line!'s, and 'Take him off! He's f*cking useless!'s. Laughing and jeering and cheering all in one. We were all standing so close, huddled together, clutching our beers, or cranberry juices. Comments about skill, and strategy flying over our heads from those around us.
It was pretty brilliant. But sadly, I left at half time to nip home, and watch the second half from the warmth and safety of my lounge. I shouldn't have, I should have stayed. Because in the last few minutes the All Whites, the brilliant brilliant All Whites came back, and scored a goal, winning a draw from Slovakia.
And, for someone who isn't a soccer fan, who doesn't know the players, or the rules or much about the game, I wished that I'd been back at the pub with people who did, people who understood. Because I cheered, standing on my couch, arms raised in the air. I cheered by myself, loud and stupidly proud of a team I don't know, for drawing in a game I don't understand.
I'm excited about the next games, now. 2am kick offs be damned. I'm going to be in that pub with those people. I'm also that girl that filled out all the scores in the Heralds World Cup Game Results chart at work this morning. I think this what they call patriotic pride. Go the All Whites!