Once upon a time, long long ago, in a land far away, I was a young ingenue studying abroad in Italy.
There are few times in my life that I can recall having to work as hard as I did when I was Manager of the Boys Soccer Team. After the first practice I was so sore from lugging the ice coolers and water coolers down to the field and back up to the school and chasing down every ball that went out of bounds. Not to mention the stress of having the coach constantly telling me that I just missed writing down who was "all sides." Of course I missed it, I was running after the ball that flew over the fence and down the hill. And what in the world was "all sides?" The boys got a real kick when they saw my stats log on that first day; I quickly learned that it was "offsides."
Not wanting to embarrass myself again, I went about learning everything I could about the rules of the game, the correct terminology, and famous players and teams. It took a little practice for me to apply what I knew with what I was seeing; just because you know the definition of offsides doesn't mean you can recognize it when it's happen(ing)(ed). But after a week of daily three hour practices, I got the hang of it. At the end of the season I knew more about soccer than I ever thought possible. Throughout my teen years I found myself at many a soccer game; mostly because I liked to ogle the hot maleness of the players, but also because I liked the opportunity to throw around my soccer savvy. And then I found myself in Italy during the World Cup; it was like entering the Twilight Zone;
The first day that Italy played is one I won't forget. The country basically shut down; school let out, work let out, and most everyone went to their favorite bar to watch the game. The ones that didn't go out, opened their windows and turned the TVs on with full volume. You could literally walk outside and be able to hear the entire game echoing throughout the streets. And this happened every single time Italy played! It was most surreal.
I also learned pretty quickly that I should never call it soccer- it was football. If you said soccer than they looked at you like "stupid American girl." It was amazing to watch as an entire country put everything on hold for a football game. They had so much pride in their team.
There is nothing like experiencing a World Cup in Italy- it's like being in a football bubble. That was many moons ago, but I still remember the excitement in the air. And I've called it football ever since; it reminds me of those youthful days of yore. As I watched USA play today, I turned up the volume on my TV and opened the windows. I couldn't hear anyone else, but I'm pretty sure that every neighbor in a mile radius heard my whooping and screaming as Landon Donovan scored the game winning goal in the final minutes of the game!
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