I spent the weekend in London.
On Saturday morning, as the Eurostar train came into St Pancras, the guard announced over the loudspeakers, You’ll find the Brexit – sorry, I mean exit – in front of you.
We had lunch in a vegetarian pub in Soho. The landlord’s dog ate a carrot.
We spent the afternoon and evening at Imperium, a seven hour sequence of plays about the supplanting of the Roman republic by the empire. The young Octavian, later Augustus, the first emperor, played by Oliver Johnstone, was spookily good. What about following up with I, Claudius?
But this is beside the point. On the streets of central London there was no sign of the third place match, no preliminary packing of pubs. There was a break of a couple of hours half way through the theatre when we could go and eat. Some young people in red Belgium shirts walked lightly down Dean Street ahead of us. I caught them up and asked who won. We did, 2-0. Our reserves beat yours in Kaliningrad and now our first team has beaten yours
I live in Belgium, I said, but I don’t support Belgium.
Do you go up and start conversations with football supporters? my friend asked. It seems I do.
Today we had lunch near Tower Bridge, looking across the river Thames to the City.
On the trains and on the streets of London, hardly any fans were visible (and all we saw were France supporters). But in a pub we went to at St Pancras, and then at the Eurostar terminal, as the game got going, supporters gathered.
Eurostar seemed to know which side it was on:
A little boy ran across the floor of the terminal with a France scarf. Allez Les Bleus he said. When Mbappe scored France’s fourth goal the crowd cheered loudly and he cried. C’mon Croatia, I said. People laughed indulgently, sitting on the floor to watch a small and silent TV in the terminal:
France won 4-2. I’ve enjoyed the world cup. Going to Russia meant I got even more out of it. France deserved to win.