Thank God I'm Not French
Being outside the United States during the World Cup is, as you can imagine, fascinating, because everyone seems to care more about it than we do. But being in Africa during the World Cup was a different experience altogether. These people are crazy for football.
First, I had the great displeasure of defending the U.S.’s poor performance. “The U.S. can’t be the best at everything,” was a refrain that I heard repeatedly. I tried to at least defend my team, DC United, by saying that we were once the strongest team in the Americas, and that we were the home of Mia Hamm (aren’t we?), but Rwandans didn’t really care (and I doubt that Washingtonians care, either).
I then became a supporter of the African teams—namely, Ghana. Everyone I knew was supporting the African teams (and Brazil), and I thought—hey, when in Rome… Plus, it was only here that I became aware that African teams rarely make it to the quarterfinals (someone told me that Ghana was the first).
Sadly, the World Cup ended up being wholly European. In the end, I supported France, because, well, being a student of French, I always have.
I was definitely in the minority on Sunday night. France, for their blind policy of aiding and abetting murderous elements during the genocide, is detested in Rwanda. (The French Embassy put up roadblocks in case of riots.) This could not have been more evident than at the World Cup final, when I wore my bleu/blanc/rouge and cheered when everyone else booed. I’m pretty sure one woman was ready to spit on me because I was supporting “the enemy.”
After all was said and done, France lost to Italy in penalty shots. I returned home dejected among cries of joy and couldn’t sleep for the collective cheering and honking in Gisenyi town. In the days following, I had to face all the people I had trash-talked before the game, admitting that, yes, “La France a fait des betises ici,” but that I still thought they were the superior team. The admission that the French had made some serious mistakes here was usually enough for most people. And when people find out I am American and not French, their faces change completely. “Oh, we love Americans,” they often say, and I’m let off the hook.
Which makes me think, despite my Francophile tendencies: TGINF. Thank God I’m Not French.