This year, again, I’ll sit with friends to watch the Euro 2012–my preference unchanged since the first time I saw the team of Spain, my vocal chords well-oiled and ready, my energy acceptable considering the heat and humidity. But most of all, watching the Beautiful Game is watching it with people I love, in an unbridled atmosphere of good cheer.
I am not much of a sports fan in general; I was not much good in school (except for an occasional magical basket ball hoop!), never caught the fever when the US became my permanent place of residence. But football was always different–from my adolescence until this day, almost half a century actually: the games we watched from our balcony in Amman, which overlooked the field of the Bishop’s school; to watching the games in Beirut during my college years, with potential boy friends or zany women friends; to watching the many, many televised games over the years in Iowa City, Los Angeles, Amman where I would return for summer visits to my parents, in Boston with my family and devoted friends. It is one long line of joy and ritual, togetherness and good times.
At the center of this long line of football joy stands my dear mother, Anahid. She started playing football in her adolescence, the first girl to do so in Cyprus. Then, she switched to tennis which she continued to play until she had a heart attack on the court at the age of 60. She had to stop, but her love of football continued unabated. When she would visit the US, and if her visit coincided with a World Cup or a Euro Cup game, the house would become a site of animation. She would prepare munchies, clean up the space, invite friends, and goad us all to share in her joy. She would dominate the afternoon, a running commentary of unabashed opinions and instructions, released from the depths of her energetic, though ailing, heart. She had favorites–from Platini, to Maradonna, to Ronaldo, but most of all Zidane whom she adored with a zeal unreserved to any other player. She was well-versed, knew all the rules, could compete with the men in our group. In her football mode, my mother was terrific–funny, irreverent, smart and zany.
Today, I will watch the Euro Cup with friends. My mother will be there, too, a shadow. But she may jump out any moment and come join us, taking over the scene, giving her opinions, explaining a little strategy, invoking Zidane. She is gone from our world, but I won’t be surprised if she return this afternoon, as she does at every football game we sit down to watch, young and wild, full of a wayward intelligence which time could not domesticate nor smooth over. This posting is dedicated to her.