Not A Safari

South Africa's World Cup, as seen from New York City

codes

This thing is also about finding the self in others, in the experience of others, in the experience of watching with others far away from home.

The angle is nostalgic, and nostalgia as a word has some positive uses. Watching with others—to watch with others is a privilege we have entered—one enters into their idea of the past as surely as their idea of the sport. None are new to football, and none are watching the Mundial for the first time. Spectatorship is keyed to invisible pasts, to “remember when.”

The surface of spectatorship, the surface of this spectatorship in exile, is excitable, but below the surface more complicated experiences lurk.

At Meytex Café in Brooklyn, a man now in middle age experiences a frisson. He is a working man. It is the banku with goat, combined with Ghana’s national anthem and a word spoken by someone else in Twi, a word not heard in decades, that all conspire to open a door into distant yesterdays. His face flickers with those pasts.

In Astoria, Queens, a specific Brazil is available, the Brazil of the correct color-range, the Brazil that made this great crossing. My sense of it is limited, but in the crowd of two hundred, only a handful are as dark as I am, none as dark as Pele. As with all stories of émigré communities, this one has its shape and borders, it has its relatively advantaged and relatively disadvantaged. But the crowd in Astoria sing—with fervor sing at the moment black Maicon scores a wonder goal—a single Brazil.

The Germans in Fort Greene are a younger crowd, male and female, and something complex races across their faces to the tune of Deutschland, Deutschland. On 116th Street in Harlem, the Ivoiriens are older and all male, and in their faces is an even more intense experience of “remember when.”

I’ve mine too…

There’s lately been a slight shift in the Mexicanness of being Mexican in El Norte, if you look for it. Their team, beautiful to watch, incisive and intelligent in the footballistic arts, has inspired pride. The shirts of El Tri seen on trains and streets and kitchens code like the chain of lighthouses that keep merchant ships safe, the Mundial a personal Helicon for each.

[TC]

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Filed under: peroration

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