Bonjour mes amis! With all the thrill of the Pop World Cup you may have missed that there’s actually another kind of World Cup happening at the moment, related to a sport called football! And whether like me you’re in Paris for work, or just fancy a holiday so you can yell at the screen Abroad rather than At Your Local, here is a non-French-speaking guide to watching the World Cup in Paris.
Whom to root for
(In descending order. For matches between teams on the list, go with the higher-ranked of the two.)
- France: Obviously.
- Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire: Or as they’re known here, “basically France from before”. (Is this true? Not in the slightest! Does this matter? Also not in the slightest!)
- Belgium, Switzerland: Automatic approval of anywhere else where French is an official language.
- The Netherlands: The French electorate may disapprove of Hollande but Parisians apparently love Holland (I have no idea why, possibly just Van Persie’s glorious header winning all our hearts).
- Whoever happens to be playing Germany at the time: You’re not the boss of Europe, Angela!!!
Where to watch
As the weather is nice and literally everywhere is showing la Coupe de Monde, every twenty feet or so you’ll find a tabac with a terrasse and wine for less than €3 a glass. Sit in a corner table with a good view of the screen and click your teeth when tall thin disaffected men with scarves and cigarettes stand in front of you to chat about, who knows, Sartre or Proust or something.
During halftime some locals may attempt to engage you in conversation. Look apologetic and struggle through a short conversation about what you think is team affiliation: “Oh, oui, Uruguay, oui!”. Later discover you have inadvertently claimed to be from Montevideo.
After the second half the locals may invite you to come along to their friend’s bar for the 12am England match, as the tabac is closing. Agree enthusiastically with a pleased air of international friendship and solidarity. Everyone will head outside and immediately all pile into a car, leaving you slightly nervous but unable to politely refuse due to previous enthusiasm. Wonder what the Parisian equivalent of Zone 5 is and whether you will soon find out. Feel relieved but extremely bemused when the driver goes 100 yards in a straight line and everyone hops out again.
At the second location there may be the opportunity to bet on the game behind the bar. Place €2 on England with the expectation of losing but the faint vague hope of making back enough for une verre du vin (€3.19). When you return from the bar, a bottle of rough house red will have appeared on the table, as well as birthday cake for one of the locals. Text a friend to ask if they want to come along: “at a bar somewhere in the 11th or poss 20th, on big road, blue door, looks closed but we’re in here!!” Friend somehow figures out which bar you mean and makes it inside; assume this is universal Parisian superpower.
Accidentally lock yourself in the toilets and emerge ten minutes later to the entire bar smirking at you. Mumble something stroppy about Lafayette and Washington and sit down.
At the end of the match, dramatically tear up your reçu de €2 and say: “Ugh, Rooney.” Everyone will nod in agreement and sympathy.
Try to think of any French players’ names to discuss and fail.
Say feelingly, “Poor Casillas.”
Everyone will nod.
Key vocabulary words and phrases
La balle: Ball
Un but/le gardien: Goal/goalkeeper
Le arbitre: Who is this idiot?
Le, uh, de Angleterre, you know, Monsieur Rooney: The England team
Larmes de Ronaldo: One of the most glorious sights of the tournament
Le prolongation: Overtime (or indeed regular time depending on how poorly your team is playing)
Ce un coup!: Holy shit, that was a beautiful shot!
Vraiment? (delivered witheringly): Stop rolling around like a prat, he barely touched you.
Xaviiiiiiii: Wail of dismay from Spain supporters (obsolete)