[The following appeared June 25 on The Mantle.]
BRATISLAVA – That’s what the Slovak commentator screamed from the TV.
How about ‘dem Slovaks?! Our scrappy Central European friends today sent the reigning champion – mighty Italy – tumbling out of the World Cup, 3-2. Even I cheered in the pub today.
“After you, France … Want to share a taxi to the airport?”
Bratislava is celebrating tonight. Flags are fluttering. There’s chanting in the streets. Slovaks are greeting strangers with warmth. My wife and kids are congratulating them as well. Smiles everywhere.
All this reminds me of one plain truth: nothing compares to living in a small, almost-invisible country during a major sporting event, like the Olympics or World Cup.
Seeing how they come together to root for the national team really warms the heart – especially if you focus on the negative most of the time, as I tend to do. (Scroll down for countless examples!)
Living here, though, you connect. You develop relationships. You pull for the people, for the land. You want them to do well.
I’ve now been very, very fortunate to experience this in two countries. First Hungary, now Slovakia. (more…)