My mother’s love for futbol and the World Cup was boundless, timeless, and shameless. It crossed continents and generations; it brought us all together in enthusiasm and sometimes in disappointment; it created a kind of goofy, wild joy that was my mother’s trademark until the very end of her life.
Anahid Oshagan Voskeritchian began to play the beautiful game as a young girl of 14, in Jerusalem, at the urging of her father, the writer Hagop Oshagan, who was very liberal in matters of girls’ education, both intellectual and physical. (She also swam and played tennis.) She played in the boys’ team with her brother Vahe. She claimed, until the very end, that she was a better player than he. “He was a poet, a dreamer,” she would say. “I was the real player!” But she would always add this little jab of a line: “I was defense player. Those boys did not want a girl to be playing attack!”
In Jordan, we lived on a second floor apartment that overlooked the athletic field of the Bishop’s School. Whenever there was an intra- or inter-school game, my mother was on the balcony commenting, cheering, sometimes clapping—often to my adolescent embarrassment. At that time, one in the family had her zeal for the game, but she persisted in making us all watch the boys play, explaining the rules to us, praising this player and trashing that one.
But the glory days of my mother’s love for the game came with television and extended into scores of games from all over the world. (In time, my own family and I had become lovers of the game. ) She watched every single World Cup game, wherever she was—in Amman, in Boston, in Los Angeles and any other points I may have missed. It was always the same: We were always on the floor, in a well-aerated and large room, fully prepared and excited way ahead of time. And always, always, my mother would make lokma beforehand and we would dip the sweet, greasy stuff in the syrup and eat away as we watched. But that did not stop her from commenting on each player, each move, each little infraction. One year, part of the family was in Amman and part of it in Boston. We had to compare notes, so the phone was ringing for the entire second half of the game.
Anahid knew the game, the rules, the players like the back of her hand. She was partisan and biased. She liked the French and the Argentines, but more the French . She was a Zidanista, until the end, but she liked some of the South American players. She did not like the Italians. “Պարապ տակար են,” she would say.
In later years, she lived alone in Amman, but her house was always full of friends when the World Cup semi-finals and finals were on. On other less auspicious occasions, she watched the game by herself long into the night. In fact, the night she died, she had watched futball until one in the morning. Then she went to sleep, happy.