Off the Grill and On the Field

Smokey Sausages Unite Czech and American Soccer Fanatics  

First Impressions is a Prague Wandering series that chronicles the early days of expatriate life for young Americans studying in Prague. The series is intended to capture the shock and awe that many foreigners experience when venturing outside their comfort zone.

 

By Gerald Tigol

Fall2014_Sausages

The sausage is a commonly enjoyed snack at sports events around the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

As the sun began to recede, the stadium lights shone brighter. The buzz of the distant crowd grew louder as I neared the stadium. Soon, I saw two different flags flying next to each other, both were red, white, and blue. It was September 3, 2014 and the United States men’s national soccer Team was set to battle the Czech Republic’s Men’s national soccer team at 8:00p.m. at Generali Arena in Prague 7.

Watching my first professional soccer game in a new country created a mix of emotions. I felt an unusual, extreme patriotism toward my fellow Americans shouting “USA! USA!” I felt a friendly, competitive tension with the Czech fans. But after no lunch and a long day of classes, the intensity of my hunger overpowered my interest in goals and defense.

I wanted an American beef hot dog. I waited in line to enter the stadium dreaming of a perfectly charred dog couched in a fluffy white bun with a squiggle of bright yellow mustard, a streak of shining ketchup, and a generous scoop of green sweet relish.

“Looking around I saw hands in the air, hands covering faces, and hands holding plates of sausage.”

Inside the stadium, every food stand sold the same thing: a grilled reddish sausage served on a small white paper plate with a slice of soft, dark bread and dark yellow mustard. Not wanting to miss any action, I bought a sausage and took my seat.

It was delicious. The spice, juiciness, and smokiness from the ground meat mixed with the tanginess of the mustard created a wonderful experience. I savored the taste as a chorus of children sang the American national anthem. My patriotism returned, and my hunger once again subsided.

The most memorable part of the game was its only goal. America scored 20 minutes into the first half. I stood up and cheered a loud “Whoo!” raising my hands in celebration. My left hand held my plate, now a painted canvas with a smear of mustard and several oily spots. My right hand held a piece of the soft, dark bread wrapped around a last mouthful of charred sausage. A Czech man sitting a few rows below me heard my cheer, turned around, and shook his head. It was a friendly, competitive shake. He then smiled and raised his plate to me, acknowledging a good goal. I raised my plate back.

After a week in the Czech Republic, it was the first time I made a human connection. After that goal, I felt a sense of belonging. Looking around I saw hands in the air, hands covering faces, and hands holding plates of sausage. We were rooting for different teams, different countries. But we were all enjoying the hot dog of the Czech Republic.

Gerald Tigol is in the NYU Stern School of Business Class of 2016. His hometown is Green Brook, New Jersey.

This article was adapted from an assignment for the travel writing class at New York University in Prague.

 

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2014 Issue Number 2, Food, News, NYU Prague, Travel

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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