PEOPLE (Croatians), PLACES (The Drive), THINGS (Soccer)... fifa 2018 a game to remember!

This week has been full on in the categories of respect and love for deserving people.   Emotions soared throughout the world, especially wherever Croatians were, on Wednesday and Sunday for the semi-finals and finals of the FIFA World Cup soccer match 2018.  I certainly have my rocking chair story nicely stitched into the fabric of my memory: a textile called life.

Winners?  (rock, rock in that rocking chair)  "Oh yes, I have a story about winners my dear, do you remember the World Cup of 2018?" ...That was the year Croatia came so close, oh so close. There were so many winners going into those games.  Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic to name a few, where children of the war of Yugoslavia's final stand, a place where their families decided to leave their homes to make better lives and/or save their lives for their children.  This team, Croatia understands passion and survival on a level that runs deep and strong.  They were not expected to be top contenders, never mind make it to the final game with the possibly of taking  the World Cup trophy to the homeland.  

For over 15 years I have taken my Mom to Croatia, a working holiday or sorts, and I grew to understand my Croatian heritage more and more deeply; from the people and from the land.  Of all the trips made, 2018 was a year not meant for me to experience the match on that landscape.  Rather it was destined for me to make decisions here in Vancouver as to where I would watch the games.  Let's focus on the last two.

Wednesday, July 11th 2018 the choice was the Croatian Centre on Commercial Drive -- the Drive; the place of all things soccer. Walking from my home in Strathcona it became evident my timing was off and the start of the game would happen before reaching the CC.  Thinking quickly, the answer was clear, just go to the Portuguese Club.  It's the best kept secret for the place to watch sport and on the way.  Problem solved, so the first half was covered.  

It didn't take long to realize half the fans there were cheering for England; great, was my thought, yet I became conscious that I was becoming a little MORE vocal for the Hrvati (Croatians) as a result hahaha.  For luck, I ordered a tequila and left it sitting there until Croatia scored.  Tick, tock, tik tok...last seconds of the first half and still no goal.  Hhmmmm, well shoot that tequila and say  "you owe me a goal Croatia", as I run out the door and hoof it up to the Centre.  That's what I did, 'taking in' every second coffee shop, bar and restaurant playing the game; a visual delight for my 20 min. half time break while hoofing. (smile)

Croatian Centre, Wednesday afternoon and packed?  Entering the place where people either don't work, where on vacation or have called in sick hahaha, quickly realizing the BIG hall = full and the small hall was almost  full.  Wow, this is awesome!!  I was finding people I knew, meeting new people (haha the Irishman who was all for Croatia and was not the only non-Croatian in that position), and with the rectangle (cel. phone) I was now carrying a whole community of local and international family and friends with me virtually. The energy level was somber when I arrived, typical Croatian fans thinking "show me something and then I'll cheer" hahaha.  Well that's exactly what they got a win over England!! ... result = much cheering.

Leaving the CC with excitement and joy, relishing the moment, as the energy just kept giving as cars were driving up and down the Drive honking and flags waving.  Thank you Portuguese club and Croatian Centre, what fun!   Hmmm, now the question is where to go on Sunday for the finals?

That was not an easy answer as I wanted the energy of people, but not TOO much, and options available depending on the results, party like it's 1999 or not, etc.  The easy part was that for sure I would be destined for the Drive -- that was a no brainer.  I didn't want to over think it but very aware (like this project) of my aging in place (haha) and how I wanted to experience this time in history.

Sunday, July 16, 2018 at, OMG, 7:45 am!!!   NOTE: This is NOT a natural time of day for me.  If I'm getting up at this time, for you and/or to do something it's important to me and/or I love you; JUST SO YOU KNOW.  Where to watch, was the question and long and short lead to  another quick decision, the perfect place for me was the Portuguese Club full game this time.  The whole game with friends,  new friends and the rectangle.   Of course, I attended with my party dress on, not that anyone could guess who I was cheering for.

The details we will share when you bring drinks to my house and we reminisce over the great World Cup game of 2018!!  The reader's digest version:  we gave them a Head and a Hand (decision discussion = many drinks) and did not win the cup.  We settled on winning the hearts of the world.  That's not too shabby. 

(Love these images of the inside and outside game watchers; it mirrored the table where we sat, some looking one way at a screen and others facing the other way!)


I will now share a special moment with you.  This is for free, no drinks required, and it happened as I walked home.  Strolling down the Drive a handsome healthy Frenchman approached me, obviously he noticed my dress, and with a big smile on his face he gave me a heartfelt hug.  He smiled and said "We won, but the question is who was the most deserving team? That is the important question... And your team was that!!! .  This was a truly beautiful person who crossed my path and I will feel always blessed for that.

"Congratulations France," I say, "your players are very fast and skilled. Bravo on your win."  This was a unique world cup where both finalist were winners -- Bravo Croatia for winning the hearts of so many!!

Hero's welcome -- hearts won. (if you're patient with this link you'll have a taste of the Croatian experience-- enjoy).

"So my friend fill my glass", as I rock in my chair,  "and let's talk about Winners!" 

(Note: I'll be wearing a black and blue jersey with the number 10 on it!)