19 November 2009

The thrill of victory

We returned to Paris last night weary from work/site-seeing (I'll leave you to guess who of us was tired from which) and from the dense food and beer of 5 days in Belgium.

We were greeted on the metro platform at Gare du Nord by mass shouting, whistling, and chanting-- weird even in the Paris metro. At first we couldn't tell where it was coming from. When the sound got louder when the doors opened at the next stop, we realized there were two cars on our train packed to the gills with an energetic mob. Hmm. Happy energy or angry energy? And who were they?

At each stop, the pressure valve would release the compressed contents of the cars, expelling fervent youth with red-and-green-painted faces or waving Algerian flags onto the platform before they pushed their way back into the mosh pits or colonized other cars. The smiling and singing made it clear that this was celebration rather than demonstration, and there's only one thing going on right now that could trigger such euphoria: World Cup soccer. Indeed, Algeria had just beaten Egypt to gain entry into the tournament. From the looks of them, I'm guessing most of the revelers aren't old enough to remember Algeria's last trip this far, in 1986.

A busker had gotten on our car and just started to play when a group of about 8 displaced celebrators got on and carried on at full volume, pogoing up and down so exuberantly that it felt like the floor would crack. Even with his accordion and amplified accompaniment, he was no match for the small crowd, and so he finally gave up and sat down, watching warily.

In fact, we were all warily watching to see what happened next-- even a happy mob can turn into a disruptive mob. But at Franklin Roosevelt, the mob poured out of the subway to join the full-scale celebration on the Champs Elysées, and we heard honking and partying in our neighborhood for hours. I was too lazy to go out and take pictures, but you can get a pretty good idea of the fun from this one (Nov 19 photo) and this one.

France, too, qualified last night, though in less honorable fashion: they tied Ireland on what even the perpetrator, Thierry Henry, admitted was a handball and so won a 2-game, total-goals playoff 2-1. Had the playoff gone to penalty kicks and France lost, I suspect we'd have witnessed a less positive taking to the streets.

I guess there's still time for that next summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment