What Could Have Been: Reflections on a football trip to Paris not taken

When I got the news about what happened in Paris on Friday night, I was sitting in my room of my guest family’s apartment in Cologne, Germany, working on a recap of my experience at the Revierderby that past Sunday. I was running through how going to this game was the culmination of over six years of work and personal triumph and tragedy in order to experience one of the best days of my life. But that was quickly dashed when I realized something: I was supposed to be in the Stade de France that night.

Had it not been for my wallet going on life-support after using the black market to get into the Revierderby, I would have been in the stadium with 80,000-plus people that ill-fated Friday night.

Now, I can’t sit here and say with 100% certainty what I would have done if I had been there, especially if the suicide bombers had successfully made it into the stadium. I don’t know if I would have freaked out and tried to run back to where I was staying. I’d like to think I would have done what I did that Friday night, throw on my journalist hat and share what was happening as best I could. But until you’re actually in a situation like that, with tears and shouts and police pouring out every which way in constrictive anarchy, no one really knows what they would do.

But I do know one thing for sure: those responsible for what happened that night in Paris will not deter me from my love of the game and the responsibility I have as a journalist. I’ve covered football matches one week from my last kidney transplant, and less than one month after I left the hospital against my doctor’s wishes. I’ve been in stadiums swarming with riot police armed with water cannons at the ready. I’ve gotten up at four in the morning on a Saturday after a long week at work, just to cover a tournament more than two hours away for over twelve hours, running from field to field and talking and talking and typing and typing until my fingers could barely grasp the steering wheel back home the next day.

Why?

Because this is the love of my life. I would go to the ends of the earth for this game, German or not, even if I didn’t have a dime in my pocket. This is my life. The only thing that will stop me is when I’m worm chow.

So when something like what happened on Friday night hits you, you can either stop in your tracks and let the world scare you into your little corner or you can keep going. Both the German and French national teams will play Tuesday night as planned, now with feeling, now with meaning far beyond a friendly.

I hope we all continue to play and enjoy the game of football and of life. We may rib each other sometimes about our clubs or colors, but we are all together in the world of football. Let us cherish one another and all that football has given us until our final whistle.

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Follow Kai on Twitter @Kai_Dambach