I had just come back from Portugal, where i seriously treated myself to lots of rest, sun, good food (fresh fish!), and endless walks along beaches, monuments and pictoresque streets. I was feeling recharged in a way i haven’t felt in a very long time. I realize i feel peaceful and fully happy when i start smiling all the time for no special reason, when i get my sense of humour back, and when i spontaneously start making small talk to everybody, from the vendor at the cafe to old acquaintances i meet on the streets.
I don’t know a lot of portuguese in Amsterdam in part because living here, for me, means ‘mingling with the locals’. In occasion of important international competitions though, the portuguese in me gets out of its cave, and i like to go to some typical association, drink portuguese beer and cheer for our team. This year APA – Associacao Potuguesa de Amesterdao, which is located very close to Mercatorplein, was my home for the European Football Championship 2016. I watched the final there, in which we played against France, the championship’s host.
Contrary to popular belief, one of the most beautiful things of a place like this is exactly the mix: the portuguese-dutch couples, the litle kids who fluently switch from one language to the other, the second or third generation immigrants whose portuguese is not so fluid anymore but whose love for the country and the culture of their ancestors is so visible, the portuguese with roots in former colonies, the brazilians who come cheer for us, the dutchies with no special link to Portugal who spontaneously come support us and join the party.
Last Sunday was a beautiful evening. We started out at 19.30 with a delicious Bacalhau com Natas, a traditional cod with cream dish and finished with Pudim de Ovos, egg pudding. Pasteis de nata and coffee to top up. The game began at 21.00 and by that time i was seriously shaking. We were in the final for god sake!, and i had this secret feeling we would win, a very rare feeling having into account the strengh of the opponent, and the fact the portuguese team had never won any european football competition before, despite its internationally renowned players.
When the game finished i had watery eyes and in the middle of the chaos of hugs and screams i saw an old man next to me crying alone like a child, clasping a flag in his hands to dry up his tears. The fact i had just came back from my holiday in Portugal added up to the sentiment. This year, while there, I managed to reconnect with the country in a new way, perhaps a more compassionate one, after long years of being terribly critical about everything, from mentalities to politics. This victory is of extreme symbolic importance for the entire nation, which is trying to recover from long years of depression and austerity and which, for that same reason, lost around 220 thousand people for immigration just in the years of 2013 and 2014.
I had promise a round of aguardente velha to some friends, in case we won. This powerful potion was the cherry on top of the cake of our evening and, thanks to it, I ended up at Dam Square at 02.00 with two other friends swaying a flag to two Americans passers-by who didn’t bother to take our picture. Sunday represented a sort of holiday continuation that i tryed to prolongue as much as i could. This sort of competition is one of those very seldom moments i can somehow feel united with the portuguese in a pretty objective way. Although football is not the solution for the problems Portugal faces as a nation, it is certainly a good excuse for reencounter and hope.
Might you want to visit APA (the Portuguese Association of Amsterdam), check them out here.