Arriving in Warsaw, Without a Passport

It was a last minute plan, but maybe those are the best kind. Saturday night it was just a ticket to the USA versus Poland soccer match, but it felt like airfare to Eastern Europe itself. With Chicago's heritage and current population, this game was like a home game for Poland.

Walking to the train station I read my friend's text explaining her patriotic wardrobe for the game: blue jeans, white t-shirt and red flats... and an American flag tucked into her purse! I frowned a little since I had chosen a neutral green tank top and grey pants. (I didn't know what to expect from soccer fans, and didn't want to make myself a target if our seats were indeed in the middle of Warsaw.)

Just walking to Solider Field, we were passed by school buses festooned in red and white with cheering Polska fans hanging out the windows. We were among the few people speaking English! Hearing my friend bemoan that she'd never been to a USA match where American fans were in the majority, I made an early commitment to stop for a USA t-shirt. It was a lot of fun, and likely one of the first times I sang the words to the national anthem, since it seemed to matter just a little more. At Cubs games, we're all rooting for the U.S. so the Star Spangled Banner is kind of a routine.

Polish flags hung all around the stadium, and the crowd cheered, "POLSKA!" To which we began to interrupt, "USA!" until the chorus was a repetitive: "POLSKA! USA! POLSKA!! USA!!" It was still echoing in my head after the game.

I'm not sure I'll be happy going back to the sleepy pace of a baseball game after the passion and pace of the soccer game. It was a good one too, with the US tying Poland, 2-2. For us, in soccer, that's as good as a win.

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