It’s still a struggle, people. While I understand that I’m closer than I’ve ever been to being able to hug people outside of my household in the past 15 months, I’m still a long way away from feeling any kind of normal. There are still many countries in need of getting their populations vaccinated (so travel to a tropical beach is not an option for me anytime soon), and I have family who live in some of those countries, waiting and not knowing when their turn to get vaccinated will come. Unfortunately, we’ve also recently lost a very dear Aunt (one of my parents’ really good friends) in our family, and it hit me pretty hard. I understand that death is a part of life, but there is nothing that makes it easier to deal with. This was especially hard since we were not able to be close to other people. And not being able to hug or visit with other loved ones when you’ve lost a part of your circle is really, really shitty. Plus there is all the other news of the world, non-pandemic related, that I hope will result in actual, proper, real-time institutional change and allow those suffering some healing. So my count for crappy news tends to drive right back up.
I know all is not lost. I also recognize that I am extremely lucky to be in the position I am currently in. So I’m continuing with my theme of writing about things that bring me comfort. Which leads me to this Friday and the start of this year’s Euro Cup. (I could be talking about all the major Continental Football Associations of the world holding their major tournaments this year – all of which I believe had to be cancelled last year due to the pandemic.) (And also by Football, I mean Soccer in here.)
I am going to preface this by saying I would have been ok if they postponed the event again. It would be irresponsible for me to ignore the fact that we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. I am deeply concerned that the Copa América has suddenly shifted host nations from Argentina to Brazil due to safety concerns. And with everything that I have read or seen about the pandemic and the populations living in these countries, I just don’t understand how anyone could possibly go ahead with it. I cannot bring myself to research how or if spectators will be involved and I (perhaps foolishly) keep trying to tell myself that teams and coaching staff will be held to strict policies and safety bubbles. (With my brain it is so difficult for me to just go with the flow.)
Nonetheless, I have enjoyed watching any professional sport that’s been broadcast on TV over the past few months. A guilty pleasure, if you will. Other than watching the Raptors chase another NBA title victory, no sporting event makes me happier than FIFA’s World Cup. (Do yourself a favour and watch Jon Oliver break down how the sausage is made. Re-watch if you must!) And while that tournament isn’t happening until next year, football fans are used to making do with league play, Olympic play, and the Continental Confederation of World Football (FIFA governing bodies) tournaments. So now I find myself in a year when these tournaments and the Olympics will be played – a football explosion with the benefit of a bunch of other sports I also really enjoy watching. But I really love football. I grew up playing the sport and my sister and mother were forced to sacrifice many hours and vacations so that my dad could coach and drive me to all of my tournaments. It was a vehicle for me to bond with my dad and all of my cousins who lived in Trinidad. Pre-internet and satellite TV, I had only Graham Leggat on TSN who cared about bringing me footballing updates on Soccer Saturday on TSN. Football has delivered some of my highest sport highs, and lowest sport lows. It has always been an underdog sport to me, and that has evolved with the times and when money gets involved. I have never worked in any organization in any of the years I have worked where I haven’t been able to take some time and watch some of the daily matches with a team of people around me. (I was spoiled during my summer jobs. I still have a particularly fond office memory of the Monday after Ireland beat Italy during the World Cup 1994.) When I couldn’t be in front of the TV, I was constantly refreshing the Match of the Day play-by-play on The Guardian’s website. (Don’t worry, my work was always completed. I have worked through the many different time zones and year-end hours to make sure I could properly do both.) Luckily, with the progression of internet and sport packages available on TV, I will be able to stay updated on all of the major tournament happenings.
Perhaps most importantly, I will get to see a lot of these matches with my Mom. I have been able to watch matches from every major football tournament with my Mom. And, as morbid as this sounds, I always wonder if it’s going to be the last tournament match I’ll see with her. So I make a special effort to watch the marquee matches together. As I’ve gotten older, I realized I preferred to be at home with all my snacks and prime seat in front of the TV to watch and handle the stress that comes from being the fan of any Team Underdog. And this year is especially helpful since I can’t actually go anywhere to watch and we’re stuck with each other. Like puzzles, football will have a way of helping my household find some common ground as we continue through these Covid times.
One of my favourite football commentaries of all time comes courtesy of Iceland’s amazing takedown of England’s team during Euro 2016. It was a glorious ride for Iceland, and you couldn’t help but be caught up and excited. At the end of the match, whoever was calling the game said, “Iceland’s fantasy beyond fantasy. Tonight Reykjavik is the global party city. England(’s) glum beyond glum. A fairy tale too ludicrous to write has come gloriously to life.” (I don’t know who said it.) What I love about this quote is that it sums up the highs and lows of watching the tournament and following your team. It’s absolutely dramatic and absurd and cheeky, because despite popular opinion, England’s football team has not performed well in many of the major tournaments of late, and there is nothing better than a takedown made by any team viewed as the underdog. This past year has felt like a nightmare too ludicrous to write, so I’m ready to submit to whatever Euro 2021 throws at me. (Safely, of course.)
I’d like to say I fall into the “sandwich generation” – and while I have no children of my own to care for – I find myself falling somewhere in between caring for my mother and caring for my sanity. When I am not working, I have the honour of helping look after my amazing mother, who has suffered 2 strokes in the past 11 years. Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart, and if I am being honest, it can be a crappy club to be a member of. I have fallen down more times than I care to count through this journey, but while channeling my incredible stubbornness, strength (both of which I come by honestly,) and several F-words (Faith, Family, Friends and Food), I keep getting back up. IG: @Coolman_Eh