You’ve had a horrible week, the boss has been on your case every single day and just had to top it off with an extra shift on a Friday night. Or maybe school was a bust; you got homework from three different teachers and your crush said they just want to be friends, damn. The sun has already set when you finally get out of the pouring your rain and transition straight to your bed. Under the blankets you try to collect your thoughts but its just draining, you put your phone on the charger and switch off the room light. The faint light of your phone illuminates a smile on your face as you wander into your dreams, the focus sharpens on the phone notification, Saturday night football.
You tug at your coat as the cold air bites through it, the sun sets a purple haze as it falls while the night rises. The stadium looms just round the corner but you hear it before you even see it. You hear the chants and shout of arriving fans and the bustle of traffic around it, the music emanating from the stadium fills the sky. You turn the corner and there it is in all its glory. It hovers above all else, its steal and brick body -a tribute to its historic beginning and its glorious significance today. It is bathed in a purple glow that feels like a buzz of energy to all in the vicinity. Like an island on a vast ocean, waves and waves of red flags, jerseys and excited grins move around it. They weren’t alone either, a blue tide was rising and it was strong, the opposition fans came in their numbers and just as enthusiastic. You could see men and women that own shops and work at bakeries in their red and blue jerseys, your classmates and university students littered around, even fans from all over the world, all walks of life were here to experience the wonderful game first hand. You walk past a family taking pictures in front of the entrance, maneuver around a group of supporters singing songs and next to a couple wearing opposing jerseys you see your mates. You wave at them, they recognize you then grin and wave as you walk up to them. You hug, chat a bit about the week then just as you suggest going in the stadium, its lights turn on, bathing everyone in wonderful colors before fading away, you cant help but feel your heart flutter, its almost game time.
Inside you can barely hear your own thoughts, the constant roars and cheers of the fans reverberate through the stands. Thousands upon thousands of fans in red and blue focused only on the twenty-two players on the green patch of field down below. You cheer your heart out as the team goes on the offense; you take a quick glance at the little boy on the seat next to you, he clutches his scarf tightly his eyes wide as the wing down below leaps into a run with the ball on the flank. He dances past one player, passes the ball then he receives it back, he’s one on one with the keeper and the home fans grow louder. He pulls a shot, the stadium gives a collective gasp of exasperation as the ball goes wide, you hit your hand across your knee and one of your friends shakes you excitedly as she yells, “come on lads!”
The game has worn on but still remains at an impasse. Both sides are giving it everything they have, a barrage of attacks from both sides equally repelled by fantastic saves and sturdy defense. You look around and see anxiety in peoples eyes, some are clam and watch quietly while others pour their hearts out onto the field, you see a mother kiss her son on the forehead as he jumps around and chants for his team, you see an old man laugh and another next to him show a wide grin. All these people here together, it’s amazing you think to yourself. As the game began to draw to a close the blues vaulted into attack, a midfielder sends a peach of a pass into space which is quickly filled by the forward, he moves with a flourish, outwits a defender then breaks into a sprint towards goal. The stadium watches in anticipation, every eye focused on the run not daring to blink. The keeper ventures forward to cut the player off in his tracks, he dives to the ball but the player moves to the side, he shoots an absolute belter and its in the net. Immediately the visiting fans rise in cheer while the home fans bow their heads and throw their arms in the air, the boy next to you stuffs his face into the scarf in despair. But it’s not over yet, ten minutes to go.
The whistle blows and they go again, horse voices and tense faces cheer on. Ten minutes to achieve glory for one and ten minutes to salvage a point for the other. You watch despondently as your team struggles to get a foothold as the final chapter of the match begins to close. The away team seems content with just keeping possession but their midfielder makes a grievous error and loses the ball, your midfielder quickly pounces on it, pulls a shot and the ball flies. Time seems to slow as the ball spins and glides in the air, slightly brushes the keepers gloves before dropping into the top corner of the post for a goal. The stadium erupts into a frenzy, the goalscorer runs to the fans and celebrates with them. The little boy jumps up and down on his seat with a tear in his eye, his father next to him beams as the players and fans celebrate. Smoke bombs are thrown around and onto field so when the final whistle was blown for the end of the match, red smoke covered everything and rose up to the night sky. For the first time in ninety minutes you sit back and smile, “good game.”
One more thing
Now I’ll happily concur, a sporting event doesn’t exactly meet the requisite of a travel label but think about this way. The essential truth in travel is a sense of enjoyment, the quality time with family, friends or even by yourself. To walk in foreign lands and embrace another culture, to appreciate the beauty of diversity and the world in its differences.
The thing about sports is it does just that. In times of great adversity the love and passion of a game brought people together: the 1995 Rugby World Cup brought together a traumatized South Africa from the horrors of apartheid, the 1936 Olympics brought about the acknowledgement of Black prowess on the world stage in the most unlikely of venues. We live in a world were all issues and stigmas a being brought forward to the light for all to witness, were there is so much negative one has to look deep within to find a positive. But in a stadium with thousands of other people from different backgrounds, or in a bar or living room with family or friends, thousands upon thousands of people put the world around them into the background and embrace ninety minutes of enjoyment.
Ninety minutes were a missed pass frustrates you, a goal elates you and a win makes your heart soar. For ninety minutes you experience many emotions for what one could consider a trivial game but that’s what makes it so important -for those minutes people all over the world are connected by this simple thing, fall in love with the rush of emotions that block out the problems around you and just let you be, they enjoy the humanity in the game, the show of skill, courage, bravery, rage, grief, irritation and the show of character in the moments that matter so much. So many little kids watch these games and feel those emotions which inspire them, makes them dream and fills them with wonder.
So its simple, sport is here because of what it does for people and how it brings them together, how it connects hearts and lets them dream. It lets the heart travel and brings together people from the far corners of the earth to one little insignificant field, were insignificant people give their all and millions of insignificant onlookers watch in collective wonder and amazement. How insignificant is that.
This particular take on sports and travel has been a dive into the unknown. Let me know what you think of it by messaging me your thoughts and whether I should continue on it through the social media platforms, or comment down below.