France is in the grip of football fever. The tournament started out quite sedately with nobody here really believing in the team’s chances this time round: Zizou seemed to be getting old, Domenech looked like a tired actor in a commercial for pseudo-trendy eyewear and then there was the Djibril Cisse bendy tibia incident in the final friendly (I wonder if that boy's drinking enough milk). After a lacklustre qualifying round, however, things really started to hot up when France beat Spain in the "huitièmes de finale". By this time my friend Sue who was celebrating her 40th the following Saturday, was praying for them to lose (it’s my party and I’ll ban football if I want to, football if I want to). In the end, a TV screen set up just inside the French windows meant that we were all able to mingle and drink and cheer and nibble (did I mention cheer ?) on the terrasse all at the same time, and then we moved inside for the drunken chanting.
So now they are in the semis (see the reaction in the centre of Bordeaux here) and for me it’s all very reminiscent of 1998 really. With three minor differences:
1. Scotland isn’t involved
2. There are no matches in Bordeaux
3. I’m not working in the FIFA press centre
Eight years ago, Bordeaux was invaded by the genial tartan army. The Bordelais discovered how wonderful the Scots are (absolutely everyone seemed to have a story about a Scot they’d met and taken home or about evenings they’d spent partying with men in skirts) and the English residents discovered that, shock horror, Scots don’t actually support the England football team, as many of the "traditional folk songs" being yelled throughout the city testified. The bars all ran out of beer but there was no loutishness. Further south in Toulouse where Engerland were playing, it was a different story.
We partied at night along with the best of them (ah, those footloose pre-baby days, sigh) and during the day I worked as a translator at the press centre.
To be continued ........