After building up our hopes for the first time in decades, England lost against Croatia in the semi-final of the 2018 world cup. Football wasn’t coming home lads. Fortunately, I was leaving home to head to Paris for a week. If England weren’t going to win the world cup, it was a slight consolation that I would be in a country that did have a chance. And, as we all know, France went on to become ‘Championnes du Monde’, winning the world cup final. It was a pretty crazy time to be a foreigner in Paris.
We arrived on Saturday – the day before the final and also Bastille Day. We headed to the Eiffel Tower to join in the celebrations and watch the fireworks. At the very end, the French colours were projected onto the Tower and everyone began screaming “allez les blues”. That was our first sign of just how mad the final would be.
It took us a very long time to get home as there were thousands of people and, for some reason, a lot of closed roads and metro stations. We eventually stumbled in at around 3am (having left about midnight), and woke up ready for final day.
After the chaos of the previous evening, we couldn’t face returning to the Eiffel Tower to watch the football on the big screens. Instead we found a promising pub on google and headed out to reserve a seat. However, turning up just three hours before kick-off was, we soon found out, very naive. Everywhere was PACKED with excited locals. We began to stress about whether we would get a seat anywhere.
Eventually we located a bar which was screening the football in it’s beer garden (do beer gardens really exist in countries other than England???). We found a bench to perch on (they had long ago run out of actual seats) and were ideally placed in the sunshine to watch the match. I also quickly discovered my new favourite bev – beer with strawberry syrup. How have I lived my entire life without this?!
The bar kept filling up until it was time: kick-off. From then on out, it was extremely tense. When France scored their first goal, everyone celebrated but there was still a serious atmosphere. I think everyone knew how quickly things could change. However, the mood lifted as France scored again and again. Even though Croatia also scored, it seemed pretty clear that France were the better team.
However while everyone was happy, no one was celebrating yet. Everyone at the bar was waiting with bated breath for the final whistle. When we finally heard that, and France were announced as the victors… Madness. Everyone went insane. Dancing, screaming, singing, hugging strangers and setting off flares. Everyone flooded the streets, chanting and waving flags. Cars were driving down the wrong side of the road, with people hanging out the boot waving flags. Motorbikes sped past honking their horns in procession.
And us? Well, we weren’t really sure what to do with ourselves. Of course, we were happy for France. And excited to witness the jubilation. It was amazing to be in a country so full of pride. We later saw on the news how the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe were flooded with people celebrating. And we were truly happy for them. But we did feel slightly like onlookers, a little bit out of place.
So we took ourselves to a cafe, and ate pizza among the crowds, watching the celebrations take place.