The World Cup at Trocadéro

photo: watching the 1st game
The only better place to watch the game
may be at the stadium.

Scotland One Six-Pack; Brazil Two

Paris:- Wednesday, 10. June 1998:- For this first day of the World Cup the weather is brilliant, with an 'Ile-de-France' sky and a little breeze; it is weather patented and breveted by the Paris Tourist Office, but rare all the same.

The forecast is downhill, but right now it is brilliant, with this sparkling blue sky, dotted with clean-looking whiter-than-white puff-ball clouds. All the trees are at their freshest greenness, due to the late or non-existent spring.

At the métro exit at Trocadéro, I come out of the one furthest from everything as I always do. I like to get a look at the place from this neutral spot before getting to what I've come for. The ground is spattered with shadows from the tree leaves; light and shadow. Perfect.

Except that there doesn't seem to be any World Cup here. Where are the throngs of fans? Where are the traffic jams and the police and their waggling fingers and frowns? Where are the flags and the noise-makers?

The café terraces to my left have their lunch-time fans. Food fans, dessert fans, terrace fans; ordinary Trocadéro fans. The cemetery wall to my right, with the memorial relief is well-lit by sunlight, butphoto: rollerflic and scots hidden behind a few tour buses as usual. I go this way because I know I will finish up with a tour past the terraces later. There are no footballs fans here either.

Scottish fans are interested in Paris' new 'rollerflics.'

In front of the Musée de la Marine, the Paris police are running a bit of a PR action. They are introducing their brand-new 'roller-flics' to journalists. The in-line-skate cops were on the TV-news last night, so I don't mind running into them either.

I am just not to tell the cops I am seeing their 'roller-flics' and they won't bust me for seeing them without authorization.

This is the deal I work out with the head PR cop, who is well dressed, like a slick Mike Hammer with shades. Everybody thinks adding the 'roller-flics' to the existing bike-cops is a good idea and I do too, so there is no beef here, except I do not have the 'authorization' that you are supposed to get each day of the year when doing 'street' work. Getting one of these would leave me no time to be on the street.

The roller-flics are doing little twirls on the Parvis for the other journalists, the one or two around, and doing a bit of posing for football fans and some explaining of what they do.

This is fine and I get my photo for you, and you read this, and now the whole world knows Paris has roller-flics. The Paris police have pulled off another successful PR coup. Everybody is happy. We are in 'fun' country today, the first day of the World Cup.

That's why all these gents in skirts are here. These are Scottish fellows and so nobody will mistake them for Ukrainians or Eskimos, they are wearing kilts. They are not jolly, but they are having a good time being in Paris today, wearing their skirts.

It's the World Cup caper; the Scots got in the Cup's opening game, which is today. They got a short straw or something, because they only have to play against the Brazilians, who maybe got a really long straw.

Then, here at Trocadéro, some 'they' has put up one of the several big screens that are spotted around Paris, so these Scottish guys and some of their girlfriends - a lot of whom are wearing pants - are here to see the game. Here to see Scotland play against Brazil and this is why they are fatalistic rather than jolly.

Two of them are so fatalistic, leaning on the parapet overlooking the back of the big screen and the fake football field and stands put here by Addidas; that one is drinking Orangina and the other, I think, Coke. Most the rest of the Scots I see are carrying six-packs of beer; all except for the ones carrying twin six-packs of beer.

Down below in the Addidas 'stadium' there are kids doing soccer moves, and there are some loudspeaker noises. The sun is shining on my two Scots, but they do not think Scotland will beat Brazil. Apparently, Scotlandphoto: brazil scotland shirt exchange can lose to Brazil, and later beat Bulgaria or someplace, and then everything will be okay and Scotland will move to the next round.

Long before the game, Brazilian and Scottish kids are exchanging team shirts.

Whatever it is or however it is, there is no shame in getting beaten by Brazil so long as the Brazilians have to fight to win. Against guys in skirts, I think the Brazilians will be very tough. Their Ronaldo looks like a good egg; but no guys in skirts are going to win.

Some Scots are trudging up the stairs carrying their provisions, so I decide to go down and see what is going on. On the way down I see they are a pretty fierce-looking bunch with their red hair and their general barbarian looks. They are having fun even if they look wild and wooly.

Outside the fence around the 'stadium' there are truly remarkable scenes; these 'tableaux' of tartan-skirted fans and the TV-crews covering their antics and Parisians getting autographs from them.

Up in the stands of the 'stadium' there are a group of kids and as I watch they start trading shirts; the Scottish ones for the Brazilian ones. This is neat. Even some of the wilder fans outside the fence cheer for it.

About now I begin to understand the broadcast announcement that is filling the air with garble. It says, basically, that the Scotland-Brazil game will not be shown on the big screen here. Garble - 'technical reasons' - garble. Everybody should go to where another big screen is at Concorde, or better yet, to much further away, to Stalingrad.

As this message seeps into some Scottish heads there are groans. It is possible this message has been repeating for some time, and is the reason why I saw Scots going up the stairs - to begin their métro rides to Concorde. Or better yet, to Stalingrad.

It is two hours to game time at least and I only came here to see the setup, so I've no intention of going to either place. Now it is cloudy too.

Using a concrete wall for a bar, three Scottish types have bottles of red. This is the most interesting thing I can see so I go over to get the story on this.

The three are drinking Herault, which is not 'premier cru' or 'classé' anything. Actually there are four of them, but one looks like he's finished his already, or he's annoyed they didn't get six six-packs instead. Two are sipping steadily and the third is like he's been having pick-me-ups between the sips.

This is the one who tells me they don't - bleep! - if the game is shown on the big screen or not because they have a TV in their hotel room. He is one of your conversationalists, who, after having a sip or two, tends to lean forward when he talks.

When I have one of these, I turn either right of left, to keep them moving in an arc, which makes them readjust their distance - but here we'rephoto: scots' beverage on the footing of the concrete wall and if he 'arcs,' then he's going to drop. So I edge behind the wall a bit.

Some Scottish fans with three bottles of provisions; discussing the 'no-show' screen.

He tells me 4000 Scots have tickets to today's game at the Stade de France, and maybe 25 or 30,000 have flown into Paris. I believe him. I've seen some of them. Ahh, he says, the TV in the hotel room is okay. See the game better anyway, he says. Concorde is too far away, he says; and besides, it must be full by now. He doesn't care if the Brazilians win - expects them to - but Scotland needs to beat somebody else - Norway? - and if they can do that, then it's on to the next round. He doesn't think Scotland can beat Norway, if that's who it is.

If he doesn't know for sure I'm not going to guess. I see what may be a Brazilian and I slip away during a pause for a sip.

The 'Brazilian' says he is not. Was only born there but lives in London; but is wearing Brazilian colors. Grins when I ask if he sambas. Before I can get more on this, he is gone.

I think it is time to look at the other booths, which line either side of the fountains. There is this big one, with this huge Web URL painted on it. 'Hall of Champions' it says elsewhere.

The back of the stand is a giant mural, with Michel Platini just left of centre. The young French guy there to explain it all to me, offers a brochure and one thing leads to another and before I know it I am talking to a pleasant fellow from Atlanta, whose name is Lex Jolley, about the 'Soccer Hall of Fame,' which is what the 'hall of champions' is all about.

Of all the world's sports and all their 'halls of fame,' soccer had none until somebody figured out this lack and is now in the process of filling this gaping hole in our collective cultural universe. As we all know, soccer is the biggest deal of all, and one day your home town will have itsphoto: platini, hall of champions own 'Hall of [Soccer] Champions' - but this might be a bit in the future.

In Paris, footballer Michel Platini, gets into the 'Hall of Champions' almost first, along with Pelé of course.

The sun is shining again and it is not at all stressful to be exchanging views with Mr. Jolley. Then he has to zip off to fix something on his stand.

I wander up by the Canal Plus booth. This is Paris' very own cable-TV empire and I believe they own the TV-rights to the World Cup in France - and it is a bit glum here with no show on the big screen.

A technician from Britain, who actually runs the screen and who is in Paris all the time, usually for the big screens at the racetracks, tells me it is the police who have pulled the plug on the big screen; because they didn't like the looks of the Scottish fans and their six-packs.

He is telling me he is pretty disappointed; he has been here since noon, tuning up his baby. While we are chatting about racetracks, the broadcast system - it is 17:20 exactly - says that the game will be broadcast - garble - "Absolutely No Booze Inside the Stadium Area" - garble, and my man says, 'Hey Ho!' - it is exactly 10 minutes to game time.

"See you at the Arc in October," he says as he runs off to power up his tubes and amplifiers and projectors and whatnot.

The big screen has its back to the sun so the picture can be seen, dimly, but it is there at 17:30. There are the usual announcements and credits for Canal Plus and finally - wow! - there are the players and the match, the first game of the World Cup 1998 is on.

A big cheer goes up when Ronaldo the Brazilian hero first appears, even from the few Scots who have hung on, but the main thing is, the show goes on.

Here we go: thirty days of World Cup soccer, right here in downtown Trocadéro!

Looking down from up above, fans are in the stands and fans are sprawled on the fake grass. The guys watching entries are watching the screen too and a guy gets in with a can of something, but takes it out and puts it down and goes back in.

On the Parvis of Trocadéro I see no roller-flics nor any other kind of cops. The few people wandering around do not look like they know the first game of the World Cup is being shown 'live' about a hundred metres from where they are.

The people, sitting in the sun on the terraces of all the cafés at Trocadéro, do not look like they care that there is a World Cup soccer game being played in Paris today, for the first time since 1938.

Later, on the evening's TV-news, I hear that Brazil beat Scotland, two goals to one. Both sides got a goal, but Brazil got one more. Not overwhelming for Brazil, but great for Scotland.

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