Let us all be completely honest here – meeting Chris Teicheira at a bar is not all that strange of a phenomenon.
I’ve actually done it three times in the last month to join him and a bunch of fellow Portuguese to watch their home country (their country of lineage, actually) compete in the 2016 UEFA European Championship.
On Sunday, that team – led by Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who graduated from Portugal’s favorite son to its new young father figure – made history by winning its first ever soccer major championship by beating a hosting French team that everybody thought was going to run away with the title.
This is important for a number of reasons. Sports achievement aside, Manteca is a community that has strong Portuguese roots. It’s no secret that the Portuguese famers who settled in this area more than a century ago – planting their roots and growing their large Catholic families – were pioneers in their own right, and their influence is still very much alive today.
The goal that won the game for Portugal – which came with less than 10 minutes left in extra time – send my Portuguese friends into a frenzy, and I’m pretty sure that there were a few tears shed when the final whistle blew and a country that actually has a word for the feeling of nostalgic melancholy was suddenly the best on a continent that invented the game and have transformed it into what it is today.
And they did it without their best player.
But here is where something like what happened in France on Sunday transcends sport and proves that soccer is one of those games that can truly unite people regardless of where they are in the world.
Yes, there was celebration, and yes, there were drinks, but when the fanfare died down a little bit (and I say died down a “little” bit because rumor has it the party extended from The Pub out to some South Manteca dairies before the night was formally over) I actually saw Teicheira hug Fagundes Meats and Catering owner Frank Teixeira and tell him that he wished that the old timers were around to see this.
It meant something to them. It meant something to their past – their history – and getting the chance to stand on top of the mountain instead of standing at the bottom of it and coming to terms with the fact that you’ll never make it there was something that was too good for words. Think of the attitude of Cleveland Browns fans or Cubs fans, but extend out to your entire existence – that’s the idea of “Saudade” – and you have a brief summary of the complicated feelings that goes into expecting too much from life in general.
The party wasn’t contained to just The Pub and the small group of Portuguese descendents that I spent time with on Sunday. Up the street at the FESM Hall, one of Manteca’s two Portuguese societies was celebrating the second day of their biggest weekend of the year – their annual Festa – and the hundreds in attendance viewed the game, which was the first Euro Cup final ever to end regulation without a goal, projected onto a massive wall.
Sopas, sweet bread and history go well together.
It was four years ago that I met Teicheira down there at The Pub socially for the first time when he invited me down to eat linguicia and watch Portugal play in the 2012 Euro Cup, and it was then that I kind of fell in love with soccer and the way that it unites people.
All of that came full circle on Sunday, and it was great to be able to witness something like that with people who have been waiting their entire lives to see it take place.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.