Tag Archives: soccer

Confessions of a World Cup Slob

21 Jun

Plates and cups clog the kitchen sink.  Empty beer bottles roll back and forth in the front yard.  Dirty, sweaty clothes pile up in the laundry room.  This is the life of a World Cup slob – me!

This is what the World Cup does to some men – turns them from Metrosexuals to Neanderthals.  The few times I looked at myself in the mirror the past 10 days, I don’t recognize the image.  The clean shave has been replaced by a prickly stubble; the eyes are bloodshot from staying up past 2 in the morning; the hair’s wild.Kitchen sink

What’s even better (worse?) is that I don’t have to report or answer to anyone.  Days before, my wife and daughters flew from Israel to  California for a summer vacation.

I have the entire house to myself!

During the World Cup, other than part-time work, I don’t do much.  Weeds sprout in the garden undisturbed.  The sun beats down on the uncovered lawn furniture.  My dog howls for attention.   The trash can in the kitchen smells.  Ants crawl on the countertop.  The toilet bowl has many colors;  white is not one of them.   The towels are crunchy.  The bed is unmade; the decorator pillows are on the floor.  The fridge releases an echo when open.

But I’m happy.

World Cup

World Cup

The Wold Cup – the celebration of football (soccer) – comes once every four years.  Over 160 nations compete to be in the Wold Cup.  Only 32 make it.  For me, it’s not just a celebration of the beautiful game; it’s a celebration of life.  Fans in the stadiums all over Brazil jump for joy, hug strangers, shed tears of victory or defeat.

For many fotballers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  They’re at the top of their game.  These superb athletes represent flag and country.  They fight with the skin of their teeth.  They defend, attack, score, pray, rejoice.  It’s the ultimate rush.

From the comfort of my armchair at home, I cheer and heckle, watch replays of goals in slow motion, somehow feel the unbearable Brazilian heat, the cold, the humidity, thirst, exhaustion.

pile of clothes

It’s great to hear old-timers speak of past World Cups: 1966 in London, 1970 in Mexico City, 1994 in the United States.

I AM such old-timer.  As a kid, I watched a Wold Cup game in 1966, on a black-and-white TV, in a crowded cafe in Rome, with my father.  I watched the 1970 Wold Cup on a giant screen at the Forum Sports Arena in Inglewood, California, again, with my father.  And I watched the 1994 World Cup in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, live, with a friend.

On the radio recently some Israeli women complained that during the World Cup they had turned into “sports widows or girlfriends.”  The talk show host responded:  “Listen, women, once a month, you’re unavailable for a week.  Once every four years, men are unavailable.

Equal abuse for all.  Laundry

The Final is almost three weeks away, but already, the World Cup in Brazil is destined to be one of the best.

Come July 14, a day after the final, I promise to shave more often, to tak out the trash, to wash, to kill ants, to clear out the fridge.  But until then, I’ll remain a happy slob.

A final note from where I’m reporting: Israel did not qualify for the World Cup.  But no worry — if there’s ever an accountants World Cup, I’m sure Israel will win.

Until then, Israel can only dream of reaching this event, as shown in this YouTube clip.

 

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Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lionel Messi of Barcelona Scores Big in Galilee

6 Dec

It’s three in the morning in Galilee.  I’m a passenger inside a tiny Honda that races past dark fields and meadows.  I’m sleep-deprived, caffeinated, bundled in a coat and scarf.  At this hour small talk is small with my wife’s brother-in-law, Hezi, and his two sons, Yaniv and Ido, ages 35 and 29.  We’re all heading to the airport to take part in a four-day, three-night soccer expedition to Barcelona.

Barcelona Harbor

Barcelona Harbor

“You’re crazy and why can’t you watch the game on TV” — my father’s words from the night before — echo in my head as I go past airport security and take a seat on board the charter plane.  We’re one of three flights — 900 passengers — leaving this morning for Barcelona.  There isn’t a single Spaniard, American or Englishman on board.  We’re all Israelis with one purpose in mind: to see Boy Wonder, Lionel Messi.

After we land, a convoy of buses awaits, whisks us to our hotels near Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s pedestrian-friendly boulevard.  At the Rialto hotel we inch our way to the reception desk to get our keys.  There are about 100 Israelis and 100 suitcases in line.  These soccer fans range from young to old, from couples to buddies (us), to toddlers.  Toddlers?  They’re wearing Barcelona’s football club jerseys, red and blue stripes.  Around us, Hebrew is dominant.  We own the place, talk about the upcoming game tomorrow night.  The hotel clerks are calm; they must have seen it all before; they pepper their instructions with “Toda” and “Shalom.”

We venture into the streets.  It’s frigid, scarves and woolen hats all around.  Hezi, whose arm was injured during Yom Kippur War of 1973, chooses to wear one tight leather glove on his good hand.  It’s not long before we sample the many tapas bars and the one beer in town: Estrella.

Barcelona Soccer Game

Barcelona Soccer Game

Israelis are everywhere.  By their numbers in the streets and bars you’d think Israel is ten times its size.  Souvenir shops carry signs in Hebrew along English and German.

The big night arrives.  The Barcelona stadium, Camp Nou, is filled with 90,000 fans, a near sell-out for a league game against Athletic Club Bilbao.  The people of Barcelona hate being labeled as Spaniards; they’re from Catalunya.  In fact, many wish to separate from Spain, form their own nation.  Their language is different as is their food, their music, their culture.

Lionel Messi and his teammates enter the stadium through the tunnel.  They’re warming up on the green pitch.  It’s a frenzy of screams and shouts.  The Israelis behind me join in, call out his name from the stands.  Some wave Israel’s flag, possibly wanting to adopt him as their own.  Messi continues to stretch, to hop and skip.

The whistle blows.  It’s kickoff time.  The game clock ticks. Barcelona tapas At 17:14 the crowd suddenly erupts into song.  Ido tells me they chant at every game at the same exact minute and second — 17:14 — to commemorate the last time, the year 1714, the Catalans were independent.  Eventually they were crushed by the French, later taken under the Spanish flag.

It isn’t long before the team from Bilbao is crushed.  By half-time Barcelona leads 2:0.  The game ends 5:1.  What a treat to see Messi score twice, to hear the crowd roar, to watch the locals question the referee’s every call, to watch all the Israelis become one with Barcelona.  After the game we celebrate with rounds of Estrella at nearby bars.

Initially I thought the Israeli presence was restricted to Barcelona.  I was wrong.  The next morning our Israeli tour guide takes us on a day-long bus tour to Monserrat, a multi-peaked mountain range an hour away.  The limestone rocks jut out like fingers pointed at the heavens.  Against the rocks there’s a beautiful monastery with depictions and paintings on the exterior walls.  The words Jerusalem, Hebron, Nazareth are inscribed on the walls.  At closer inspection I see another set of words: Mount Tavor.  Its significance to Christians worldwide is undeniable.  Hezi, the brother-in-law, appears to take pride in that Tavor is “our” mountain, seen from our window at home.

We return to the bus past the souvenir shops and the cheese artisans.  I can’t believe my ears.  The herdsmen and farmers are describing the goat cheese, the soft and the hard kind, the herbs – in Hebrew!  The guide tells us they sell the most cheese to Israelis, chose to learn key words to drum up more business.

Gaudi Cathedral

Gaudi Cathedral

By the fourth day, I miss home.  I’ve had enough of tapas in glass displays, of beer, of soccer talk, of my three male partners, of Gaudi’s wild (!) cathedral, of seeing pig legs hang from every hook known to man.

It’s not long before I start to hum the lyrics to Elton John’s song: “Rocket Man”

“I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight”

The bus to the airport arrives.  We catch a red-eye back to Mount Tavor, back to Galilee.  Still early in the morning, I climb into bed and pull the blankets over me.

Good night, Messi.