The chronicle of one evening in Leidseplein Satellite Sport Cafe Amsterdam.
What an evening!
Bob is sitting on my left with his Italian 3 stars t-shirt (the new one with 4 stars still dirty at home), me and Driek take place in the middle, on those high bar stools, and Arjen and Edward on our right. Apart from Driek, we are all dressed in white and blue to support our Azzurri. Driek is the only one in our group with the Oranje t-shirt although he wants to see Italia.
I am the only Italian and my Dutch friends are happy to see me and my husband after 2 years, since we won the World cup.
That is how we met, in the Sport Cafe in Leidseplein; immediately a strong bond of Italia supporters was created between each other. As I said Bob is a cute Dutch bachelor of 50 something that looks forever young and since he was 15 is a supporter of Juventus. Arjen and Edward are younger then Bob and eternally faithful to Roma, although they are born Dutch. When they met for the first time, years ago, Bob and Edward had an argument, a classic clash between Roma and Juventus. Now they meet together often to watch games, especially when a Championship is on.
The pub is full but thanks God we have the bar counter in front of us and something like 8 television screen to choose what to watch. Alternately they are showing Holland-Romania and Italia-France
It is getting closer to the beginning whistle of both matches. Bob is explaining me with his inexhaustible enthusiasm what would happen if Holland-Romania ends even and Italy-France draw too. After an extensive explanation of this complicated points system, he hands me over the Gazzetta dello Sport, yes because he buys it everyday, where I can read what he just said to me. And my ear can rest. The volume in the room is at disturbing levels.
This is the closest I will ever get to be in a stadium.
The place is getting fuller, people are finishing their food and the waiters are folding the tables so that they can place more chairs and more people can cram in. Some French supporters are walking in, a moment later a bunch of noisy Italians who manage to find a place just behind us.
We are lucky on our high bar stools! On the wall behind us also many screens so people are looking in all directions. Oranje color is everywhere. You can spot the tourists, colorless, anonymous tourists.
The matches start and my eyes move at the beginning from one screen showing Orange to the other with the Azzurri, dressed in white t-shirts.
And there it goes, the noise is increasingly high, the tension is thick, the excitement and the movement below my feet make me wonder if the upper floor of the Sport cafe' will handle the pounding and the yelling of everyone. Images of the upper floor crashing over the ground level with body parts scattered all over and blood spots on our t-shirts are insidiously showing up in my mind. Thinking of death in a moment of fun. What kind of pessimistic am I?
And there it goes the first trial of the many that will come later from Toni. Why everyone is having so many expectation on him? The Italians behind me are commenting every step of the match. I dislike that. I want to see football and not hear someone opinion of what Toni did or didn't do, what Gattuso or the other etc. etc. I filter their voices out. It is easy, I just let the noise in the background wash them out.
Toni 's look is extremely sad as if he cannot believe he keeps missing the goal. What a terrible destiny so far in the Euro 08 Championship for the top scorer of Europe this year, and ever so loved by the Bayern München fans. Don't worry Toni, you'll score in the next match. Wherever it may be.
During the break, as we are happy for our score, Bob tells me that last Friday when Italia evened out against Romania, he went home full of football emotions and an hour later he got a phone call with the sad news that one of his school friends died suddenly of a brain stroke.
Death arrives in the most unexpected times. And there it goes all the fun for football. Watching a ball for 2 hours, cheering like a child for the score of your team, experiencing the joy and enthusiasm of the flickering moment and then waking up in a moment to the reality of mortality.
Death to me always brings life experience in prospective and helps me to see how all is so very relative.
Something hit me and I was reminded of my childhood friends already gone and me, still here, after my almost
encounter with death, to tell their story.
The referee is whistling for the beginning of the second half and all our eyes are fixed on the ball, mine also on the face of my beautiful Azzurri. Did you ever think that football is a great chance for a woman to see 22 nice men running around in underwear? And if 11 of them are Italians all the better. That's Lorena's point of view, and I totally agree with her for once. But then I shrink back when they hurt themselves, like poor Ribery yesterday who suffered a major injury - as I watched it I immediately knew, it was serious and I cringed.
Italia first scores on a penalty, then Oranje against Romania then again Italia then again Holland. The floor is shaking... images of catastrophe movies come to my mind. I have to remember to breathe, but the air is thick of cigarette smoke. Okay, I breath.
The joy of Oranje and Italia is countered by a group of Romanian behind us. Especially the screech of one female supporter is chilling. I turn around and see her, angry and making the F....word sign at the screen. I am sorry for them, it would be nice if everybody could win, but then where is the fun of... winning?
And what if... life is like a football field where everybody plays his cards, you hit, you fall, you score, you stand up again, you are punished, you are rewarded, you are expelled, you win, you loose, you hurt, you celebrate,... and then at the end the final journey is the same for all of us.
We don't know where we are going but we all are going... there!
My Dutch-born Italia supporter friends gave me a warm hug and had me promise that we will return for the Sunday match with/against Spain.
See you then Azzurri.