Paris: A Day Later
Paris is amazing. But Parisians have a reputation for being rude. Particularly to Americans. Maybe that’s just a myth where I’m from. Who knows, really? However, fresh off the French World Cup victory, I’ve never seen a city so warm and accepting.
I landed in Paris just after, or right toward the end of, the celebratory parade.
Traffic wasn’t quite as bad as I anticipated. I exchanged pleasantries in broken French with my Tunisian Uber driver, who spoke back to me in broken English. We taught each other a few new words and spoke of France’s win, Tunisia’s qualifying, and America’s lack thereof.
To be completely honest, I hadn’t realized the parade was Monday. I assumed the players would have a day to kick their hangovers and would celebrate my 31st birthday, erm, their World Cup victory on July the 17th.
The pride is real, and it should be. Sure, some of the celebrations turned ugly, with looting and setting things on fire, but I don’t want to focus on that stuff. It’s simply not what I experienced. I was pretty far from any of the madness, and all I witnessed was pure elation.
Les Bleus came into this tournament with a plethora of talent. And the second youngest squad in the tournament. Regardless of tenure, the team showed up. Captain and keeper Hugo Lloris made some of the great saves of the tournament (we’ll forget the gaffe that gifted Croatia their second goal). Paul Pogba silenced his critics, controlling the midfield and scoring a key goal. Antoine Griezmann proved yet again that he is truly a world class player.
And then there’s Kylian Mbappe. He erupted on to the scene, burning his competition, and proved that he is THE player to watch in the coming years. The kid is 19 and straight up embarrassed defenders. He had a couple runs that reminded me of Gareth Bale destroying Inter Milan in the 2011 Champions League. He’s special.
No Real Controversy
This World Cup was supposed to be controversial, yet it gave us some of the best soccer we’ve seen in years. Nobody really knew what was going to happen. The only thing that did seem certain was that once Germany bowed out, France was going to win. On paper a very good team. 6-1 odds to win. But there’s a difference between what you read and what you see executed.
They didn’t start their strongest, but the goal in a tournament like this is to build on your mistakes, gain momentum, and get stronger the further you go. This French team has gone above and beyond. They’ve exorcised their Euro demons. They are world champions. Truly. Unlike how MLB has the “World Series” with 31 American teams and 1 Canadian.
The Future Is Bright…
The best thing about Les Bleus? They are going to compete for years to come. And their competition looks to be strong, too. England is better than they’ve been in years. Brazil bowed out, but could be scary when healthy. Belgium is getting close to a changing of the guard, but are as good as they’ve ever been.
As an American, I can only hope that the likes of Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah can push us somewhere close to that conversation. With the likes of Argentina poised to fall off the grand stage, and Germany needing to take a good look within themselves, you never know.
The Beautiful Game
But now isn’t the moment to look forward at what could be, nor back at what could have been. Now is the time to bask in the glory of the beautiful game. Russia 2018 came to be amidst great controversy but delivered the best World Cup in my lifetime.
Here’s hoping the high of Russia can elevate the game in the US, that Mbappe continues to grow and slay, and that Euro 2020 is an insane tournament. And with that I’m going to slink back into the nightlife in Paris. For the rest of this, week I celebrate with my ancestors. (Author’s note: I originally wrote this a few days ago via Notes on my iPhone, and only now have been able to get to a computer.)
Merci Les Bleus. You were fun to watch.