Written by Cu
Four years passed quickly. I can hardly believe that it is now already time for the 20th Fifa World Cup. Though I am no fan of soccer, I can still remember lying on my bed’s bamboo sedge mat under Hanoi’s steaming heat in 2010 as my family were watching the ¼ final between the Netherlands and Brazil together. I bet on Brazil at that time while forcing my stepfather to bet on the Netherlands; the loser had to treat the whole family one round of ice cream. I’ve always enjoyed betting on soccer, not for money, but for simple things such as ice cream or deciding who would have to wash the dishes. This has turned into a childhood memory, for my uncle (when he was still unmarried) and I would argue over the dishes almost every evening after dinner. Therefore, I can also recall the existence of Paul, the octopus that were said to be able to predict the result of most soccer matches during World Cup 2010 accurately.
Watching World Cup (though occasionally) this year from Belgium, I find the event rather significant, because I have the chance to observe how local people react to soccer, especially when their national team has made it to Brazil after 12 years long. It was funny going to school in October 2013 and hearing everyone talking about soccer instead of tests and homework. The way people in Belgium celebrate a victory in soccer is definitely different from the way people in my country do. This is why I’ve decided to note down some impressions that I’ve had about Belgians during this World Cup period.
These following cartoons of mine are purely based on personal impressions, and do not represent every individual living in Belgium, for no stereotype can be applied perfectly to a society. Sometimes I also tend to exaggerate a little bit to show the contrast in people’s reactions before and during the World Cup. This is just for fun. I don’t mean to offend any group of people though.
Coming from a country which is intensely patriotic and which makes all students stand in correct lines to sing the national song out loud in front of the national flag every Monday morning, I was surprised when I first came to Belgium to find out how little patriotism people in here had. Not once have I heard of their love for the country. The astonishment is therefore even greater when I recently see Belgian flag fluttering in the breeze everywhere about town: on cars, under most houses’ windows and at cafes’ entrances.
(I made some faults in the drawings. According to my stepfather, Belgium’s Duvel beer is not available in cans but only in bottles. I’m certainly no drinker and have only noticed the faults after having finished drawing.)
About October last year, everyone started talking about how Belgium’s national soccer team, the Red Devils, had made it to the World Cup in Brazil. It all began at the moment Belgium won against Croatia. The team was to be found anywhere in the newspapers and on TV. Supermarkets were giving away flag-patterned temporary face tattoos for soccer fans. Just as after yesterday’s match against Algeria, the relief in supporters’ heart was expressed with an “Oef!” (phew).
Despite being a rather small country of just more than 30 thousand sq km, Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, German, and three different regions: Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. And though the country’s motto is “Strength through Unity”, its politics proves to be extremely complex, as there has been constantly talk of splitting it into several independent countries instead of staying as a whole.
I find Belgians nevertheless very cute when it comes to soccer. I know the word cute doesn’t seem to be very appropriate in such a serious situation, but who can resist from smiling broadly seeing how soccer is able to make all these political problems suddenly fade away for a moment? These contrary reactions of the Belgian are the cutest, I can assure you!
Because Belgium has so many official languages and receives a lot of immigrants through the years (also due to being the heart of Europe), it is considered to be culturally rich. I assume that hardly any foreigners can live completely comfortably in a strange country, and that the talks about immigrants exist in any other countries than Belgium which have a large amount of foreigners. People have it tough from times to times, especially if they come from another race. Belgians are generally not racist, but it is still difficult to stay unprejudiced.
However, whenever I look at this country’s national soccer team, I have that reassuring feeling, as I know that all these players of different races and origins all work together as a team without thinking much about their colors. Together they form one color: Red – the Red Devils. For once, it doesn’t matter, even to all these fans across the country, how the representatives of the national soccer look like, as long as they can play with all their passion.
The Red Devils’ win yesterday was definitely a good begin in the World Cup. I hope that they will succeed in their next matches. It was fun yesterday sitting in my living, hearing satisfied supporters honking their car horns whenever they came to a crossroads. An old woman told me this afternoon with a radiant smile on her face:
“It was yesterday evening still much calmer than I had expected!”