Today, England played Slovenia in their final game of the FIFA World Cup group round. It was an integral game, since England had a disastrous showing against Algeria a few days ago and needed to win this game in order to advance to the next round (the quarter finals). Advancement is based on a points system, with the amount of points based on whether a team wins, loses, or ties. The top two teams in each group bracket of four advanced to the  quarter finals. England was fighting for their spot today alongside the USA, who were playing simultaneously against Algeria in a separate stadium.

Obviously, Europeans (and most people in the world, except Americans) love their football. The British are no exception. Schools and businesses across the country closed early today in anticipation of the 3PM game, and the news was overrun with stories about the huge influx of “sickies” (sick days) expected to be called in. At Policy Connect, the football > work mentality was present in full force. The office was already full of chocolates and champagne (gifts courtesy of the organization Policy Connect had run a party with the night before), and I was already feeling rather astonished as I sat in the office filling out an Excel spreadsheet and sipping a mimosa which had been handed to me by my boss. But by 2PM, my coworkers were antsy and ready to leave. Chris, who sits across from me, reprimanded me as I finished a few lines of the same Excel spreadsheet while the rest of my coworkers drifted out of the office to find seats at a nearby pub. Yes, I do stick out like a sore thumb.

The office was completely deserted by this point, and when I got to the pub around the corner I understood why – a huge mob of people were standing outside, singing the British national anthem (which, incidentally, I had no idea shared the same melody as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee!). The sun was beating down on an uncharacteristically hot and cloudless afternoon, and everyone was restlessly holding their pints and screaming “Come on, England!” in anticipation every time they got possession of the ball. When England scored their first goal (the one and only point scored by either team the entire game), the response was deafening. The relief was palpable after the win – England would definitely be advancing to the quarter finals! The good news for American fans? So is the USA! In the last 3 minutes of extra time added to the 0-0 tied game, the US managed to sneak in a desperate goal and secure enough points to also boost us into the next round of play. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see the US play England again during the World Cup, after all!

The crowd outside of The Union Jack, watching England win!

On a totally unrelated topic, the City of London festival is starting soon, which is accompanied by a largescale art installation by British artist Luke Jerram, where pianos are placed in public areas around the city for anyone to play. I told myself I would find at least one before I left the city, and today, completely by chance, I did! This piano was right outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, facing the Thames and the Tate Modern. So cool! The art project is being spread around the world, too: check out this article from NPR today!

"Play Me, I'm Yours" - Public pianos for the City of London Festival 2010

Tomorrow I’m headed to the British Museum, then class in the evening. After class, I’m going to attend a performance called “Gravity” as part of the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival (see their website here). The festival is ten days of huge, spectacular outdoor arts spectacles, including largescale modern art and dance performances. “Gravity” is their opening night piece, and I can’t wait. I’ll let you know how it goes!


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