Friday, August 31, 2007

Partisans and non-partisans

Tomorrow brings on the much awaited Feyenoord vs. Willem II game. Joel's tickets arrived a couple of weeks ago and while the game isn't a major one (according to Jan) it should be interesting enough to keep young footballers interested and inspired as fans of one of the biggest clubs in The Netherlands.

My brother-in-law (an avid footballer) contends that my son's football club is brainwashing these kids and training them to be fans of a club that can't compete with Ajax (the other huge football club). I suppose you could say there are more Ajax fans in our circle of friends than there are Feyenoord fans, but at 7 years old going on 8, my son just doesn't care about all that. All that matters to him is that they're all playing football, and if he had his say, everyone would win and no one would lose.

I have to smile after reading through that because it reminds me of watching the gladiator fight in Archeon. It was a fake fight with fake swords, but to Joel it must have seemed very real because after they dragged away the "dead" gladiator, he turned to me and said : "It's all fake, isn't it?" He wasn't saying that because he knew it was fake, rather he wanted to know for sure that it was fake.

Once out of the "arena", he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw both gladiators standing outside waiting to greet their "fans". He rushed towards the bloody gladiator (the one who'd died) and told him how relieved he was that the man wasn't dead at all. Afterwards, I asked him who he'd been rooting for, and he said..."both of them". I didn't want either one of them to die or to lose.

On their first football competition, I remember laughing so hard because Joel was cheering not only for the goals his team made but also for the goals the other team made. Each time, he would shout..."goal!" and he'd do a little dance singing "ole, ole". It's a good thing his teammates were all six years old (like him) and didn't have the slightest idea that the goal made was one against them.

I think this phase of non-partisanship embodies the wonder and the awe and the innocence of childhood. Wasn't there are time when we were all for everyone winning and we thought the world was this ideal place bathed in green and gold sunlight? That passes too quickly, I think. I'd like to hold my son in this moment when he's still brimming with innocence and love and friendship for's just too sad that it has to go because the world isn't kind to innocents anymore.

"Don't talk to strangers," I tell him. "Don't talk to strangers, don't go with strangers, and on no account are you to get into a car or take a piece of candy from a stranger."

"But I can smile and say good day, can't I?" he asks.

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