I’m pretty sure the first French phrase I ever learned was “Allez Les Bleus!” and the lyrics to “Les Marseillaise” shortly followed. I’ll never forget it. On the day of the 2006 World Cup final, my dad had returned from a business trip to France, visiting his company’s headquarters. He came back bearing French flags and Olympique Lyonnais jerseys and my brother, sister, and I sat in front of the television, watching France play Italy for the title. It was the glory days of French football. My favorite players, Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane, put on the kits for Les Bleus and played some of the most incredible football I’d ever watched. I’d followed Henry from club to club. When he was at Arsenal, I cheered for Arsenal. When he moved to Barça, I cheered for Barça. And when he jumped to the MLS and joined Red Bulls, I cheered for Red Bulls.
As the Union’s digital media intern, the game against Red Bulls was the one I’d had circled on my calendar since I joined up. And today, I’m still having trouble believing that yesterday, my favorite footballer of all time took to my home pitch.
The day started early, with report time to the stadium at 8:30 and a text from Dom saying that he’d be watching on NBC and one from Connor shortly after, reading: “Good luck with Henry. Keep it together.” He knew me well; it was sound advice. After the Plaza had been set up and we had changed into our gameday gear, we all gathered in Locker Room 4 to watch the Arsenal-QPR game and eat a late breakfast. It was shaping up to be a pretty good day; even my Gunners were on!
Right as pregame warmups got underway, it was a bit of bedlam as the audio in the stadium was out: no PA system, no national anthem, no player introductions, no nothing. But with the Sons of Ben roaring, it didn’t matter. There was plenty of noise to be heard, and it made for a really nifty experience as a spectator.
The U definitely didn’t play their best football, but as an Henry fan, his goal, the second for the Red Bulls, was something I won’t soon forget. I got to spend the second half with my cousin, Stephen, and his girlfriend, Melissa, which is one of my favorite parts of the game, and afterwards, ran stats to the locker room, before interviewing the Red Bulls head coach.
While I was ecstatic Henry scored, I was definitely rooting for the U. But regardless of the loss, it was the one I’d been looking forward to, and a great way to end the season at the Union.