It’s the fake weekend, a three-day vacation created out of spare weekdays in honor of the Dragon Boat festival. Interestingly enough, if you do the math it turns out that these three days are Fake Saturday, Fake Sunday, and Fake . . . Wednesday?
I didn’t do much all day, which is pretty easy when you don’t get up til lunchtime. In the evening I joined some friends for dinner and then went over to their apartment – the Dutch Concession, as I call it – to watch tonight’s World Cup game, Netherlands vs. Denmark.
We were a mixed crowd as always, but it is worth noting that there were 6 Nederlanders, a Dutch-speaking Belgian, and me (a Holland!).
The apartment had been prepared for this, the first Dutch game of the World Cup – all available seating facing the TV, Dutch flag on the wall, computer tuned to Dutch radio. As we counted down to the game, we sang along to Dutch songs and everyone changed into their orange – official team jerseys in the guys’ case.
We were pretty pumped up by the time the game started, which was good because the general enthusiasm in the room carried us through a very boring first half. Nothing happened, and no one seemed to even by trying to make something happen. It was bad enough to make me reminisce about all two other soccer games I’ve ever watched.
The second half was a whole different ball game (well, not really), right from the first minute when a Danish player head-bumped the ball into his own goal. Oops. Remember the English goalkeeper grasping after the ball like a toddler as it rolled nonchalantly into the goal he was trying to protect? Well, everyone has forgotten this flub in light of tonight’s epic fail. My Dutch friends were relieved to have scored, and I was happy that our single goal against England didn’t look so lame anymore in comparison. They realized it, too; later, when the Danish player, #15, got kicked in the shin, Jelle joking despaired, “How will we ever score again?!?”
The Dutch later scored again – legitimately – to end the game at 2 to 0. Interestingly enough, they nearly scored a third time but a Danish player saved the ball from the brink of the goal, literally close enough to demand a slow-motion replay. The player who reached out with one long, perfectly-placed leg to kick it away? None other than #15, Simon Poulsen. I was the only one in the room who noticed this; no one else saw him redeem himself. Isn’t that the way life goes?
During halftime, Carlos passed me a 2010 World Cup magazine and told me to start studying. Two interesting things I learned:
- I have actually heard of three soccer players, not just the two (Pele and David Beckham) that I originally thought of. The name Lionel Messi was familiar and I even somehow knew that he played for Barcelona.
- North Korea qualified for the World Cup by beating out the others in their group: Mongolia, Jordan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Iran. What a stellar list . . . it looks like the bottom of the Freedom of the Press World Ranking! The best of them, Mongolia is considered “partly free” at #86, and all the others are listed as “not free” – with Turkmenistan and North Korea bring up the very end at #194 and #195, respectively.
I feel slightly more knowledge after paging through that magazine. I know I’m starting from absolute zero, but at one point my Chinese was there, too, and look where I am now! (Incidentally, when I got back home I ended up having a conversation with my friend 哲明 about the World Cup. Yeah, I discussed soccer in Chinese. That’s like TWO foreign languages!!)