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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “The Soccer Diaries, Part 1”

    In order to ease myself into European culture, on my way to Italy I stayed in London for a night. I checked into my hostel, the infamous Generator, which advertises itself as “”the party hostel,”” a place to party and meet women. When I arrived I found a hostel full of, well … drunk guys wanting to meet women.

    I head to my room, find three naked men from who knows what country, speaking the universal language of obnoxiously loud snoring.

    After observing the situation, I headed out of the hostel to take advantage of the free walking tour around London.

    Between sightseeing and trading taking pictures with other solo tourists, a woman struck me. She was wrapped in a Pink Floyd hoodie, to keep the cold London wind from her body, a black beanie resting just above her beautiful brown eyes.

    I introduced myself and learned that she’s from the States. After the tour we agreed to hang and walk around the river.

    In four or five sweet hours, we summed up how we saw our past lives and our hopes for the future, all while admiring the glorious yet expensive city that is London.

    We took photos of each other at different spots, ate crappy English food, laughed and talked. We snuck into the Globe Theater, pretending to be with a French elementary school, and almost got in trouble until we ducked into a staircase, just in the nick of time.

    I never got her name, but in the time we spent, we became very close.

    We slowly walked toward the “”tube,”” the London Underground transit system, making nervous small talk.

    Standing outside the entrance, she said she felt like we knew everything about each other.

    Now, any other level headed man in this situation would have offered to buy this woman dinner, and with the help of sundown and a maybe a pint or two, get to know her even better, but this journalist had one thing on his mind: the Champions League Finals, one of the most important soccer matches in England, ever.

    Maybe it was the fact that she was speaking with an English accent after three days in England, but after passing countless signs out side of pubs all day reading “”Man Unit Vs Chelsea Tonight,”” I was ready to watch the match.

    I gave her a hug and said, “”I agree. We’re like best friends.”” As quickly as our friendship began, teary-eyed, we embraced. We each got on different tubes and headed back to our journeys alone, most likely never to meet again.

    The city was buzzing, with two English teams competing in the finals.

    I got back to the Generator and headed to the hostel bar, where a big screen had been set up for the match.

    I ordered an energy drink, settled onto the couch, front and center, an hour before the match, and despite the drink, dozed off.

    I woke up when beer spilled on my head, to a room full of rowdy English people.

    “”Tonight is the night!”” yelled a Generator employee over the PA, sporting a Chelsea jersey, simply called “”shirts”” in Europe. She went on to present the drink specials and offered to place bets.

    It began.

    In about three hours, I viewed the most exciting sports spectacle I have ever witnessed.

    Despite being a journalism major, I can’t put into words the reactions and emotions that were displayed that night.

    There were cheers, jeers, hugs and tears.

    After a 1-1 tie and extra time, a dramatic, nail-biting shootout occurred. Manchester was victorious by way of penalty shots, 6-5.

    Another Generator employee, who sat on the couch next to me throughout the game – although standing, cheering, swearing and throwing his limbs into the air for the most part – scribbled with excitement on a napkin where I could purchase a Manchester United jersey in the morning.

    I head back to my room, where the same guys were still snoring away. I passed out.

    I awoke to more snoring. Different guys this time, but the same bloody situation.

    It didn’t matter. I hadn’t met a woman at the hostel, but I was in love. Not with the girl from the tour, but with soccer, or “”football”” as they call it in the UK.

    I checked out of the hostel and set out on a quest to make this new relationship official with a Manchester United jersey.

    Lugging my backpack I made my way to Oxford Street, London’s major shopping district, trying to make sense of the directions.

    After walking the street for a few hours I finally found what I was looking for: the vibrant red Nike jersey worn by the Manchester United Football Club.

    While paying, I started up a conversation with the soccer store’s employee. I told him I was a new fan, and I would have bought the shirt of whichever team had won the night before.

    “”Stay out of Chelsea for a few weeks with this shirt,”” he said with a very serious tone.

    Chelsea, a neighborhood in London where the other team is based, was a madhouse. The newspapers were reporting riots in the district. Fights, destruction, glasses hurled at police and blood staining the sidewalks.

    After hearing the news I decided it would be wise to keep the jersey in my backpack until I left the country, not really knowing what it meant to wear a jersey there.

    Tired, I made my way to Heathrow airport in the tube. Waiting for my flight, I decided to put the jersey on. Airport security would prevent any incidents, I thought.

    Wearing the jersey, I got my boarding pass and started to make my way toward security, when a large muscular airport security man headed over to me.

    “”Oh great,”” I thought, assuming I was about to get probed.

    He grabbed my shoulder and leaned into my ear.

    “”I could kiss you right now,”” he said in an English accent. “”Greatest night of my life!””

    Because of the jersey I was allowed to pass thought security with minimal squalor. Every airport employee, usually jerks in my past experiences, was smiling at me, and wanting to chat about the match.

    I instantly had an airport full of new English friends.

    My relationship with soccer had begun.

    As I walked toward the terminal, I felt like I was in the film “”Casablanca”” saying, “”I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.””

    – Evan Pellegrino is a journalism senior. He is studying abroad in Italy throughout the summer.

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