Dix-sept The final whistle

My Heart Beats Football

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“Tonight, I have the da Díxon identical twins in studio,” Tony, the brunette television personality smiled handsomely at the cameras. “With rumors swirling around a possible coaching stint to Barcelona or Real Madrid, they’ve promised to set things straight tonight.” He turned to the twins. “Once again, congratulations on winning Euro.”

“Merci,” Ray politely replied.

“What is the most important thing you’ll take away from Euro 2016?”

“The fact that we hosted it and the fact that the boys gave their all in front of the people to win it,” Marcus was looking at the LCD screen that was currently showing footage from the Euro final. “I am proud of them.”

Tony nodded. “Over the course of the tournament, we’ve seen a unified France. But what the nation wants to know is what you’re going to do about Karim Benzema and the likes of Aymeric Laporte.”

Marcus shrugged. “Les Bleus is…

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Seize: We are united!

My Heart Beats Football

This is it.

After two years of preparing, after Deschamps walked out, after a new crazy head coach took over, the moment France was waiting for have finally arrived: the last game of the Euro 2016 tournament. Play time was over. Tonight, it was do or die. Nerves had to take a back burner. Passion, spirit, and heart will take first place. Determination and strength will prevail. This was not a battle for the weak hearted.

Coach had yet to smile wholeheartedly, but he cracked jokes occasionally, took up for his boys when everyone else was dragging them down, and although he shouted at them during training or matches, he had wormed his way into their hearts unintentionally. He was going to be missed.

Joint coach was the total opposite. Ray was open, honest, funny, and a lover. The boys had immediately gravitated towards him from day one and by…

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Quinze: This is our house!

My Heart Beats Football

GAME DAY

Germany v France

Date: 07 July 2016

Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseilles

Hearts beat erratically out of chests as the French team walked out of the tunnel to whistles and cheers. This match was decisive and Coach had warned them that there was no room for error tonight because “You’ve spent two years preparing for this moment, and any result other than a victory is not acceptable.” The team was also told to play as if their lives depended on it. Ray was both anxious and nervous and he took to biting his fingernails during the speech. He knew what was at stake if Les Bleus made even one mistake.

“We’re going to do fine, Ray,” Giroud assured him. “Don’t worry,” he turned to Griezmann. “Our little Monsieur Plus will score and dedicate the goal to you. Right?”

Griezmann nodded, his head already on the game on hand. “Of course,”

Marcus…

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Quatorze: The Umtiti Effect

My Heart Beats Football

“If the English lose, they’ll blame the pitch,” Marcus joked as he sat in front of the TV watching England take on Iceland in the round of sixteen. “Not that I care, but I owe them a match.”

“And I think the English are not looking forward to it, given that you said you’ll be giving your interview in French last November had you touch the English soil.” Olivier Giroud expressed, his eyes glued to the screen. Wayne Rooney had scored the only goal thus far, a penalty.

Marcus shrugged. “You don’t see the English coming to France and giving their interviews in French.”

“Good point!” Sagna exclaimed.

Ray was taking tactical notes on his Genius tablet. “I don’t think England will win this match, though,” he volunteered.

Every man turned to him, surprised.

“The English might be in the lead right now via a Rooney penalty, but according to…

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Treize: The Irish luck runs out

My Heart Beats Football

“Mr. da Díxon, what do you make of the Irish fans in France?”

Marcus stopped sipping from the glass of water. “They seem to be nice blokes, but their happy drunken singing stops here. I don’t think I can take any more of standing up or sitting down for the French police.”

“So you’re not a fan of the Irish fans?”

“Can we talk about the game at hand?”

Hugo Lloris took most of the questions that Coach permitted. He talked of the brilliant atmosphere that the Irish brought to France, but “I hope for a French win tomorrow,” and “we have to continue to work hard,”

“Do you think the Irish are gunning for revenge?”

Marcus’s blue eyes fiercely landed on the journalist. “I don’t know about the Irish gunning for revenge, but I do know that they’re going to go all out. In case you haven’t noticed, Thierry…

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Douze: “I’ll never shake Löw’s hand,”

“Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui?” Antoine cheerily asked as he passed the joint coach in the hall.

Ray pulled his eyes away from the tablet in his hand to look at the player. “Je vais bien,” he returned his eyes to the screen as he clicked upload on a video. “What about you? Aren’t you going to watch the game?”

“About to. We were wondering if you and Coach will like to watch it with us.”

“I’ll love to, but I have no idea what Marc is up to,”

Said Marcus was snacking on a treat when he walked down the empty hall a few minutes later wondering where everyone was. He found his answer when he heard someone yell “EEEWWWWW!!” in disgust from the open door of Paul Pogba’s room. He walked in just in time to see the German coach scratching himself in the game against Ukraine and appearing to smell his hand. “And that’s why I’ll never shake Löw’s hand,” he coolly said as he stuck a spoon in the tub of honey almond ice cream and brought it to his mouth.

Some of the players turned in his direction. They were sprawl out on the bed and on the floor watching the game. When France played the friendly against Germany last year, some people were left astonished as to why the French coach refused to shake hands with the German coach. Marcus had cheekily replied, “Some habits are hard to die,” referring to Joachim Löw’s personal hygiene behavior in front of cameras.

Ray shrugged. “Maybe that’s the secret to Germany’s winning success,”

Marcus nodded. “Maybe, but I hope they leave by the quarters because I won’t be shaking that man’s hand in the final

And with that, he was gone.

“Does he ever smile at all?” Jallet asked out of the blue.

Ray grinned. “If you win the Euro you’ll see his real smile.”

A feigned gasp came from Giroud. “He actually has a real smile?”

“Yes, that will be the one where the skin crinkles around his eyes,”

The game against Albania proved to be another late winner for the French, but Marcus was not pleased. He wanted goals in the first half, but they just weren’t coming. His decision for starting Pogba and Griezmann on the bench came under scrutiny in the global media, but he had warned the team that “there are no egos on my team. If I leave you out, I don’t want anyone questioning my decision because I won’t explain myself not even if you go to the media. You’re here to win games and give the French something to believe in.”

Ray read some comments online about the match which suggested that Albania played better than France and should’ve at least won a point causing Marcus to erupt. “A point? What game were they watching? Not the same game! The Albanians did nothing impressive. They were hoping for a draw. People are just making things up because they don’t like the French.”

Marcus watched a few games on the downtime and he was left unimpressed with Sweden and Portugal. “The pundits say that Zlatan and Ronaldo are trying to do too much,” he confided to his twin as they ate a late dinner. “Maybe I need glasses because I don’t see them doing much. I told them that Zlatan is a massive fraud. He won’t last long in the Euro.”

Ray had absentmindedly nodded in response as he stuffed his mouth with dipped chocolate strawberries.

“I’m just glad they’re not French,” Marcus dryly muttered.

When the French faced Switzerland in their last group match, Marcus called it a boring scoreless draw and asked more of his team. Sweden left the tournament after the group stage proving Marcus’s theory of Zlatan not living up to his name in big tournaments and the journalists stopped asking questions about the issue not wanting to prove the French coach right. Instead, they chose to bring up the brawls between the English, Russian, and local Marseille fans.

“I am not surprised at the English behavior; given that they normally pull these kinds of stunts in Spain. They can’t seem to hold their liquor, yet they abuse the bottle. We’re under security watch and these fools (English, Russians, and local French fans) are wasting security. I own England a match and I’ll love to draw them for quarters, but I hope they go home early and take their rowdy fans with them.”

An English reporter bristled. “Are you saying that the English aren’t good enough to make the quarter-finals?”

“I am not saying that, given that England is brimming with wonderful young talent which Mr. Hodgson can’t seem to handle, but with the Russians on the heel of leaving, their hooligans will be gone too and we still have the English hooligans to deal with. I want the rest of the tournament to be quiet and save for the others.”

“What about the French hooligans?”

“Unfortunately, they live here and we can’t send them out.”

NOTES:

^ Comment allez-vous aujourd’hui? – How are you today? (French)

^ Je vais bien – I’m fine (French)

REMEMBER, THIS IS FICTION & IT IS IN NO WAY ASSOCIATED WITH LES BLEUS OR THE FFF.