Allez les Bleus

There is something profoundly wrong with a World Cup where Canada qualified and Italy didn’t. Still, I have been watching the matches. There are many ways to enjoy the World Cup, even if – like me – you are neither a sports nor a soccer fan. One of my favourites has always been by making World War II jokes. With Germany and Japan eliminated and Italy not present, that’s a bit of a tougher call, though as I write this, we still have France and Argentina (surrenderers and the refuge of the wicked, respectively). Of course, the young and the woke might prefer to divide the countries between the colonizers and the colonized, the gender fluid and the gender rigid, the good and the bad. (And they likely would not agree with me about which countries fall under the “good” label.)

A propos, our little armbands are not going to change any hearts, minds, or objectionable regimes, in Qatar or elsewhere. What will make a difference is the true courage of the Iranian team refusing to sing their anthem. (Yes, they did sing later in the tournament, but one can be certain this was done under duress.) Or people in China watching on television and noticing stands full of unmasked fans and crowds of people from around the world not barricaded into their apartments. Or the absolute graciousness of the American team captain (see previous post) and the magnanimity of the U.S. team in a moment that could have been a blustery display of political posturing – the victory over the Iranian team.

(Of course, the cultural differences between countries that respect the rights of the individual – the basis of liberalism – and those that don’t is tremendous. But there is also a wide gulf in a more superficial area: fashion. I can’t help but notice that soccer coaches, particularly those from Europe, are all dressed like they came off the Armani runway. Whereas North American coaches are basically a notch above Fetterman.)

While I was happy to see Morocco do well – I was hoping for an African or Asian team to go far – I am pleased France is in the final. I lived in France and continue to visit there when possible. So I’m rooting for them in Sunday’s match, but unlike some fans, I will survive if Argentina wins. Seriously, a South American friend of mine was telling me that Brazil’s loss to Croatia might have caused suicides – soccer in Latin America is that important. Sheesh. So if France wins, please, Argentina supporters, keep it in perspective.