Picture yourself as fanatic of the French football team and at the same time you find yourself sheltered for a night in a Portuguese family the moment when France and Portugal are fighting for the cup. Can you imagine the tension of double royalty, on one hand the emotional allegiance to your team and on the other the need to be polite to your hosts? Thank heavens I was spared of such embarrassment during the final of the Euro 2016.
At the end of the day’s activities, first day of Come & See at Braine-l’Alleud, Bruno announced the hosting families and the persons they would lodge. When a name was called out a woman stepped forward, “Je m’appelle Martine” she said, shaking my hand. “You are welcome to our home. My husband, Emmanuel, couldn’t come. He is watching the march –he is Portuguese.” While watching the match would only be a possibility in some other families, in my hosting family it’s a matter of course.
Just imagine, the same day Mr Emmanuel Mendes, Martine’s husband, was his birthday but there was no celebration. It was anticipated a day before so as not to disturb the sacred cup final. You can appreciate then what this particular match meant to this family. “Do you like football?” Martine asked me as we were driving home. At that moment it was more than just liking football, the side you took mattered also. Happily for me I was prepared to live this moment in the Portuguese family with truly shared sentiments. When I took my option for Portugal I had no any inkling I would find myself few days later in a Portuguese family.
How I became supporter of Portugal
It all began in a simple way. In fact, I must confess that I took the side of Portugal not because of strong attachment to the team. That’s why I would say normally I would be for another team. Indeed, my allegiance to Portugal was quick and uncalculated. It was during the match between Wales and Portugal. For my confrere, Simon, his choice was obvious –he was for Wales. Our cook, Belgian, she too rallied herself behind Wales. With such choice, it appeared to me as if Portugal had already been judged and taken for a loser. In the name of humanity I chose to be on the side of the weak. Of course my choice added nothing, but for me, it was a way of giving Portugal a chance. In the end not only did Portugal win, it humiliated Wales. I felt confirmed in my option. So on that Sunday morning when we were on the train to Braine-l’Alleud my confrere wanted to know if I had changed mind. I told him I was going till the end for Portugal.
My support for Portugal bonded me with the host family
When we arrived in the house Mr Mendes abandoned the match to prepare some tea which he served with pieces of cake. And when he came back to watch the match we were really one football family, cheering for Portugal. I was not just being polite to my lodgers; rather, we were indeed for the same team. And his wife, Martine, would remark the following morning while driving me back to the parish church “it’s nice of you to watch the football with us.” In fact, it was our prayer that Portugal would win, and that would be the best birthday gift to Mr Mendes. Anyway, he finally got it after moments of uncertainty and suspense.
How does this experience work for single humanity? Yes it’s often thanks to small experiences of sympathetic encounters that help us to establish and experience friendship. They are provoked by little events that however engrave in us indelible marks of humanity. Thanks to such experiences of fraternity we are given the possibility to believe still in humanity even when it’s destruction we hear from everywhere.