Voetbal – or as it is called in America, soccer – is a ‘Big Deal’ in Europe right now, competing only with England’s vote out of the European Union. Belgium in particular has advanced to the quarter finals for the world championship. Now this is BIG!! It is a topic of conversation from the refugees in my Nederlands class to recreation conversation with the sisters. Not being a huge football fan, the only sport in America which comes close to garnering this amount of patronage, excitement and involvement, I gingerly view this phenomenon from the outside.
My first introduction was a warning from the Prioress on the day of the first game that there would be noise and music to go to sleep by as the game would be televised outside at 9 pm, mercifully after Compline is over so chant does not have to compete. Now there have been 4 games so far I think; Belgium winning each one. There is another on Friday night. If you want the scores and countries played, the sports page will do you just fine, but not this blog. The evening of the first game, a group of priests from England were at the guest house and there are no TVs in the guest house. The doors to the Beguinnage close at 6:30pm. Request was made to go out of the Beguinnage to a nearby cafe to WATCH THE GAME. Permission granted! Voetbal is BIG! Of course Belgium beers any of 30-40 kinds and the local Brugse Zot were no doubt involved.
I was out on the streets early on my way to my final Nederlands class armed with my IPad camera. There are no tourists early and you can actually see what is in the store windows. As I crossed the nearby square, the Belgium balloons, banners and decorations totally arrested my attention. Out came my camera. I photoed the cafe decorations, turned off my camera and was happy. From the square, I traveled down the tourist shop street with an infinite number of chocolate shops; one window had a whole diorama of chocolate voetbal players and balls. Out with the camera again. This time I did not turn the camera off; I was ready! Next were Belgium flags draped from upstairs windows denoting the inhabitants’ obvious partisanship and support of their country. Next, I pass the shopping street and there in the window was a whole array of possible Belgium red, orange and black clothing to purchase and wear for the match viewing! On my way home from my Nederlands class in a souvenir shop were Belgium hats and scarves but I was too tired to get out my camera again.
In case you can not cram into a cafe, the giant television screen is in the ‘zand‘, the largest square in Brugge centrum where no doubt there were thousands of people swaying and enjoying the games or so I was told by the new arrivals to Belgium in my Nederlands class. I of course was not there. One gal said her hips and legs were sore, hurt from the dancing, cheering, jumping and excitement. A Muslim father of two in my class said his daughter asked if it was all right to pray to Allah for a goal for Belgium! He acquiesced, she prayed and God responded with a goal for Belgium. Now Dad was presented with explaining that praying for voetbal goals was not the usual reason for prayer. Personally, I am always impressed at the goodness of God and am reminded that we must become as little children to enter into the kingdom of God (even if it is over a goal for Belgium!). You get my point ….Voetbal is big and may Belgium continue winning!