ARGENTINA, YANICK

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Argentina. Yanick. Sherbrooke/Hampton, Montreal, 2014

Why Argentina? I asked.

“I have many friends that are from Argentina.”

I walked into a store and there was Yanick, working. He was kind enough to step outside so I can photograph him. Yanick is from Montreal but has a strong connection with South America, his girlfriend is from Peru. Along the way he befriended a few Argentinians and started following their national team. Our chat was brief since he had to go back to work and I needed to go and get some flowers.

 


VENEZUELA, BORIS

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Venezuela. Boris. Sarajevo. 2014

Why Venezuela? I asked.

“A friend from the States sent it to me as a gift. He liked Chavez and sympathized with Venezuela while Chavez was still alive.”

Venezuela’s national team, nicknamed La Vinotinto, has never qualified for the World Cup. I imagine, there is not much space for football in the nation crazy about baseball. But La Vinotinto jersey made it all the way to Sarajevo. Boris is my brother and these days our Bosnia and Herzegovina team plays in its first World Cup tournament in Brazil. So will Venezuela one day, I hope.


STOKE CITY, KOFFI

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Stoke City. Koffi. Guy/De Maisonneuve, Montreal, 2014

Why Stoke City? I asked.

“I like Stoke.”

Then, after I insisted on more, he added “I like them all (teams), I like football.” Which explains it all. It was the first time I met someone wearing the Potters‘ jersey and I was trilled. Koffi and his family arrived to Montreal, from Ivory Coast, only two months ago. I quickly reminded him how Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Ivory Coast just a couple of days earlier in a friendly warmup match before the WC. He wasn’t concerned.

 


OLYMPIQUE DE MARSEILLE, FREDERIC

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Olympique de Marseille. Frederic. Guy/De Maisonneuve, Montreal, 2014

Why Marseille? I asked.

“Always, always, from when I was a kid, always only Olympique de Marseille!”

Frederic didn’t mind the rain and was happy to show his colours for the camera. He is from Togo and came to Montreal 5 years ago to study economics and is just finishing his last term. He was to young to remember his team playing Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup final in 1991 but I made sure to remind him of that match. Frederic intends to stay in Montreal – it’s a beautiful city, we agreed – and plans to work in real estate. May you sell many homes Frederic!


LIVERPOOL, SUAREZ

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Liverpool, Suarez. Langsuan street, Bangkok. 2014.

 

Why Liverpool?, I asked many times and got always the same answer in a language I don’t speak with the attitude I understand perfectly. There is no need for translation – a raised eyebrow and a pose of someone who will never give up speak volumes.

I know Khun Suarez for many years. He is one of tough motorcycle taxi drivers working in my street and he wears his football shirts to work. Most of the time it is one from his vast Liverpool collection although recently I’ve seen an Atletico Madrid emblem under his taxi vest. He takes me through the madness of Bangkok traffic almost every day – without people like Suarez (not his real name but we both like it) I would be just another miserable passenger stranded in what often looks like one huge parking lot in the streets of a monster city.

Our conversation, always short but pleasant is a combination of gabbling in my non-existing Thai and his equally understandable English, with important elements of pantomime. The words we understand are always the same: Liverpool (followed by his smile, a rare moment in the world of Bangkok’s taxi drivers), Manchester and Chelsea (with a face expression of someone who is about to vomit) and number of goals from last night’s matches. At the end of the day when I come back home and when he had already taken off his taxi jacket, we share a few glasses of poisonous Thai whiskey, rarely a beer. The conversation however remains the same, about football. It’s been like this for years and I don’t want it to change. He is one of very few things that can make me feel Bangkok home.

Tomorrow morning I will be again on the back of his decomposing 125cc Yamaha and he will wear a Liverpool shirt. There is a slim chance Liverpool is snatching that trophy tonight but that will change nothing. Some things are just bigger than anything money can buy, including the title.

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Waiting.


LIVERPOOL, ANDY

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Liverpool. Andy. 11th St / Ave A, New York City, 2014

Why Liverpool? I asked.

“My uncle is responsible.”

I talked to Andy in front of 11th Street bar after Liverpool’s game, and a few beers, so I’m not sure I remember his exact words. But an uncle had something to do with him falling for Liverpool and not some other club. Andy came to live in New York City not long ago. He is from a town somewhere in the English south. He, definitely, is responsible for Tanya becoming Liverpool fan.

 

 

 


ARSENAL, RAOUL

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Arsenal. Raoul. 11th St / Ave A, New York City, 2014

Why Arsenal? I asked.

“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since just before my 17th birthday. My high school soccer team went to England for a pre-season and our coach got us tickets to a game while we were in London. I don’t know how he chose Arsenal, but I’m pretty sure that it was the opening game of the season at Highbury. This was before the Premier League, but Arsenal were still in the top flight. I don’t recall the game very well, except for being impressed by David Rocastle. Mainly what I remember was standing on the crumbling terraces behind the goal and understanding why there were stadium safety issues. It was terrifying, especially squeezing out of the too-small-for-Americans turnstiles onto a street full of mounted policemen in riot gear, but also exhilarating.

I’m pretty sure that it was the first game of the season, which I think is also mentioned in Fever Pitch, because the next home game that year was a 6-0 and I definitely would have remembered 6 goals. I had to look up this up, as well as Arsenal’s opponent that day; the internet tells me it was Liverpool and that they won 2-1. I guess If I had chosen my team based on performance I would be a Liverpool fan. 

This is my second Arsenal jersey and my favorite because it still has the old, less corporate badge. I think it’s the 2001 kit. I bought my first one after that game at Highbury. It was a red Adidas shirt with one of those horrible 1980s patterns of triangles. It was too small when I bought it, but I wish I still had it to give to my kids. Strange that this was almost 27 years ago. My relationship with Arsenal Football club is one of the longest I’ve had.”
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The moment Gerrard scores his second goal, 11th St Bar, NYC

It was a fine Sunday in New York City. A couple of early morning beers with Rowan, a poet, and Raoul, a history teacher, as we watched Liverpool beating West Ham at the 11th Street Bar. Once we stepped outside Raoul took off his sweater to reveal his Arsenal colours. If those three points turn out to be crucial for LFC to win the long awaited title, I’ll remember, forever, the Sunday when poetry and history met.

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