Friday, May 31, 2013

Get Ready For Futbolas!

I will not say that Americans do not like soccer, known here as 'futbolas', but it certainly is not the most popular sport in the US. The great American sport is baseball, as many people know. In the recent past, however, football (American football, that is) has come to take the spotlight in America as the sport that people go absolutely nuts over. During football season, you can't go anywhere without seeing a team's jersey. People paint their faces, their bodies, buy foam fingers...they yell and scream and cheer as if the results of the game will determine the rest of their lives!

So you can imagine my excitement when a few of my Lithuanian friends invited me out to watch the UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) Champions League Finale, between Bayern Munich and Dortmund. Before the game, we went out to dinner and one of my friends, Karolis, was wearing a T-shirt with his favorite Bayern player on it. As he was explaining to me the importance of this game, he kept pulling his T-shirt up to kiss it over and over. This to me was not strange, it was the same as any other American who is wishing that their team will win the Superbowl. Kissing his T-shirt was just a way of showing how much he wanted Bayern to win.

We make our way to a pub in Old Town to watch the game. The feeling when we walked in was overwhelming. There were so many people there I was not sure we would find a seat. In America the bars get packed as well, but here it was as if everyone in Vilnius went to only this ONE bar! We sit down, because thankfully some friends who got there first saved seats for us, and the game begins. Now futbolas is a much slower game than American football. In American football, there are four quarters and there is a short break after each. Whenever a tackle happens (when a player of the opposing team manages to stop the player carrying the ball), there is a break. However, points are scored rather quickly most of the time. One player makes it across the field with the ball, scores a touchdown, that is 6 points. Then they get the opportunity to score a field goal, which will amount to another point added to the touchdown score. With futbolas, a point may not be scored until the very end of the game, and the clock is always running. However, each time a team gets close to scoring, the bar went CRAZY! Fans for either side began to get out of their seats, screaming at the television. You could always tell when they were getting close, even if you were not watching the game, simply based on the emotion in the room. When a team would score, it was even more exciting as people jumped up on their seats and pounded their fists into the air with happiness, or started stomping around the bar with their head in their hands with anger if it was not their team. 
Finally, Bayern Munich scored a second goal and won the game. Karolis was jumping up and down off his seat, ran outside with the rest of the fans to begin chanting Stern des Sudens, the official song of the team.

FC Bayern, Star of the South, you'll never set,
because we'll stay together in good like in bad times,
FC Bayern, German Champions, yes that's my football club,
yes, that's the way it was, it is, and it always will be.

It was an incredible night to be in Lithuania, to watch everyone so excited and singing. As for those who were Dortmund fans, they were very upset. Soon they were nowhere to be found as I am sure they all went home to avoid the celebrations of the Bayern fans. To this, America has no comparison. We get so happy when our teams win the Superbowl, and yes we will go out after and throw our hands into the air with happiness, but we do not sing or chant in the streets! We do not jump on and off tables with excitment! This was very different but interesting to be a part of. I thank my friends for taking me with them to experience the fans of futbolas!