2006 World Cup

Feeling 'It' in Germany

French fans cheer prior to the match against Togo at Cologne stadium. (Photo: Francois-Xavier Marit / AFP-Getty Images)

I can remember seeing "it" in 2002. It was beautiful, exciting, and openly displayed; I remember seeing Ronaldinho draped in the Brazilian flag as the rest of the Brazilian team proudly wore it. This special day for Brazilians was when they won the 2002 World Cup. I remember watching (on TV) the proud fans dancing in the streets of São Paulo, New York, and the rest of the world. All Brazilians had something to cheer about that day — no matter where they lived because they had it. At that moment, my brother looked at me and said, "We are going to Germany" (in reference to the 2006 World Cup). I nodded in agreement. We needed to see it in person, we never discussed what it was; we assumed we already knew. We thought it is the pride, the sense of victory and fulfillment that a country feels when they participate in the World Cup. It's when the old cry, the young dance, the proud wave their flags and the rest honor their country in anyway they can. It encompasses all these characteristics but involves much more, which we were soon to discover.

And it begins …

Fast forward to Dec. 25, 2005; yes — Christmas day. I wake up to tell my entire family "Merry Christmas" and then my brother and I pick up the phone and don't put it down until we have our airline tickets to Germany finalized. After a few hours of rambling with airline representatives, we settle on flying to Paris and taking the train into Germany. We were going and nothing was going to stop us, we were on a mission to see it. Fast forward once again, to June 23, 2006, Cologne, Germany — France vs. Togo. We are there; we hear the horns, the chants, the songs or simply put we hear it. This game was quite an important game for France; they needed to win to advance to the second round of the World Cup. As for Togo, the match was unfortunately meaningless as far as advancing went. But the match still meant everything to their fans; they proudly wore their flags and painted their faces. France ended up winning the match. As we exited the stadium I was amazed me to see fans from Togo and France — arm in arm — chanting and singing and having a great time. It was a rare moment in that you get to see humanity at its best. It was – it –.

No tickets? No problem.

The following day was an important day in Germany as their national team was playing Sweden. We leave our hotel early to get to the city center of Cologne to watch the match; we are quickly shooed away as it has been at capacity for hours. We are then directed to a public park where we watched the match with 35,000 of our closest German friends … needless to say they all had – it –. After many beers, brats, and cheers we head back to the hotel to change and head back to the city center to watch Mexico vs. Argentina. We met a group of three young Mexicans who flew to Germany without any tickets to any games. They didn't care. One told me that he needed to be in Germany to support his team and more importantly his country. He had – it –. The match began and the heavy underdog, Mexico, struck first as striker Marquez scored an opening goal on Argentina in the sixth minute. With that first goal, the Mexican crowd (close to 1,000 people) jumped and cheered with such amazing joy and pride. A young lady was crying as if she were a proud mother watching her only child accomplish a great feat; she had – it –. Eventually, Argentina (with an almost impossible goal) won the match against Mexico.

One more time …

As my week in Germany came to a close, my brother and I had one more match to attend, one more time to watch – it –. The match was Spain vs. France in Hannover, Germany; one of the most highly anticipated matches of the Cup. My flight back to the United States was leaving four hours after the match ended – in Hamburg, a city approximately one and a half hours north of Hannover. I didn't care if I missed my flight; I had to see the match. As we got out of the train station in Hannover, we saw a sea of blue and red, France and Spain, respectively. We heard Le Bleu on our left and Vive Espana on our right; it was amazing. We entered the stadium thinking, "We have been to the World Series, the NBA Championship and another World Cup game the week prior — we can handle this game." We were wrong. Nothing prepared us for this match. Our seats happened to be in the heart of the Spanish fans section and we heard it. We saw dancing, drumming, singing, and a whole lot of praying. One man clutched his rosary beads as he watched Spanish captain Raul warm up on the sideline. It was an exciting game that ended in France's victory. After the match, we rushed to the train station to catch our train to Hamburg. We made it. On the train, we were talking with an Englishman about many things and he asked us, "So you came to Germany to watch the World Cup, even though the United States is out of the tournament?" We validated his statement and he gave us this impressed look, and then it hit me like a lightning bolt.

We had – it –.

I realized that it is not only a celebration of your individual country. It's a celebration of life, culture, and each other, that's what – it – is. The World Cup is a time when a lot of the tragedies of the world can be put aside, and the amazing accomplishments, cultures and characteristics of all people are shared with one another via sports. It is amazing and I look forward to seeing it once again in about four years in South Africa.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Mounir Ibrahim.