World Cup excitement

” I ache in the places where I used to play.” – Leonard Cohen, “Tower of Song”

Yeah, I thought of that as I wandered the very hot streets of Montreal recently, sometimes waiting for a World Cup match to start so I could get a seat at Bar Bifteck, or sometimes heading down to the Quartier des Spectacles to catch the free outdoor jazz concerts and maybe get dinner at one of the food stands (the pulled pork was incredible) and a beer and sit on the grass or at a small table and just listen to people of whom I’d never heard but who, in some cases — Declan O’Donovan — were really cool.

Montreal, man, was a fantastic place for music and a fantastic place to watch World Cup and the Friday before the Portugal-Uruguay match as we were wandering down St. Laurent to the Quartier, I bought a flag of Portugal, deciding that despite my love for Edinson Cavani of Uruguay I would root for Portugal because I love the country, especially Lisbon.

And it’s just as well, too, because it turned out that the really pretty large bartender at Bar Bifteck was from Portugal and I tried out my unfortunately still-limited Portuguese on him, much as I try it on Cito who works at Hampshire Hills and who is very patient with my bad Portuguese. The bartender had, hours before the 2 p.m. match, hung a PORTUGAL banner behind the bar so it’s fortunate I did not buy a flag of Uruguay.

I had wandered the streets all that day with my Portugal flag flying from my backpack and enjoyed a debate with some folks wearing the colors of Argentina, and they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them except when they said MESSI and I said RONALDO and we all had a good time, and then there was the guy who shouted from a car, VIVA PORTUGAL when he saw my flag and pointed to his flag flying from the roof and we, too, had a good time.

But the funny thing was, I had a bad feeling all day before the match and that feeling kept coming up CAVANI. I started following him at World Cup 2010 when he was a substitute and was known as El Matador and Sara and I watched a couple of his matches at the Coat of Arms in Portsmouth — which I don’t think is there anymore — and he was just a gas to watch and I remember that 2010 match when Ecuador went up against The Netherlands and Arjen Robben who was also a gas to watch and Ecuador’s coach, who had gone to Cavani early in a previous match and he helped them to a win, kept him on the bench until there were only 6 minutes left and by the time El Matador came in, it was too late and I was LIVID.

I’m sure I was the only cat in the Coat of Arms demanding the presence of Cavani on the pitch, DEMANDING I say, and getting nowhere.

Anyway, there we were in Montreal in 2018 and I’m waiting for Portugal-Ecuador and for some reason dreading Cavani and I kept thinking I should tell someone, but who? Kathy didn’t really care. I emailed Sara about him and she remembered him from 2010 but she wasn’t really invested in the match.

And we stopped in at a Portuguese club/bar on Rue Duluth and they made it clear that I’d never find a spot inside during the match because Portuguese people, who have a major presence in Montreal and even a park called Parc du Portugal up St. Laurent up the street from Bagel Etc., one of Leonard Cohen’s hangouts — the lox and cream cheese was excellent; Kathy had it on a bagel, I had it on Russian black bread — would be spilling out into the street and I don’t think they liked me all at much anyway because the bartender gave me some hard looks DESPITE my attempts to speak Portuguese and the presence of the flag of Portugal flying from my backpack.

But that was OK because I wanted to go to Bar Bifteck, anyway, and by the way, it’s an odd name because in English BIFTECK means beefsteak and the bar serves no food, although you can bring in your own and the day before I’d envied these two Montrealers who brought in a large loaf of bread and fresh tomatoes and the bartender brought them a knife and carving board and some salt and they had a fine old time.

By 2, I was at the bar with a Noire and trying not to poke people with my flag and EVERYBODY in the room — it’s kinda small — was rooting for Portugal except these two tables right next to me where they were all rooting for Ecuador and I got into a bit of a hassle with a woman who INSISTED that Luis Suarez had been elbowed in the back of the head while I INSISTED Luis was faking, and she said, “No! I saw it,” but I never saw it and we argued some more and we both had a real good time.

And then Cavani scored and those two tables cheered and applauded and the bartender and I groaned and then Cavani scored again and those two tables cheered some more and then the match ended and I turned to the woman who had INSISTED Luis got fouled and I said, “Senora!” to get her attention and I smiled and applauded and she smiled and gave a little bow and we all had a good time.

And for me, now, Edinson Cavani is no longer El Matador. He is:


But he’s still my favorite player.

And the flag of Portugal is stuck in a plant pot on the deck, waiting for next year’s World Cup, this one the women’s, in the hope that Portugal will be in it.

And that reminds me.

What we call Women’s World Cup is next year but I recently read something in the Globe, by a woman, who objected to having a World Cup (men) and a Women’s World Cup. Why, she asked, aren’t they both World Cup(s)? It’s a good point. So, next year, I’ll be watching World Cup again but it will be played by women. Three years after that, in 2022, I will be watching World Cup again but it will be played by men. Works for me.

When I covered high school sports I always objected to the boys’ teams being called the Rabbits and the girls’ teams being called the Lady Rabbits. Why not just Rabbits? When I had sway over sports departments, I made them just use the names, whether for boys or girls. The sportswriters got used to it and they didn’t die or quit.

Anyway, by the time you read this, World Cup, played by men, will be down to the third place game and the championship game and soon after Sunday, I will begin to experience withdrawal until World Cup 2019, played in France, incidentally by women.

I can’t wait.