I grew up in a sports-loving family. The European Track-and-Field Championships of 1998? We will watch every event, from the steeple chase to the shot put. Olympic weightlifting? We will celebrate every Greek medal. The true family love, though, has always been Panathinaikos. None of us consciously chose a sports team. Before we could walk, our fathers draped us in a green scarf with a clove and taught us to recognize the team’s anthem. The family clan nowadays is a cast of characters: divorcees, widows, immigrants, nomads, America-skeptics, America-lovers. We are, however, all ‘Panathinaikos.’
Although it has been criminally long since Panathinaikos did tear-jerkingly well in the Champions League, the European Cup for soccer club teams, I knew that the rest of the family would be watching the Inter-Milan final… and that is how I found myself squeezed between a Cuban doctor/professor and a live Cuban band in Havana. The Cuban doctor informed me that Cuba is the country with the most televised hours of soccer internationally (and I share this tidbit with the knowledge that my brothers may be packing their bags instantly). The Champions League tune bellowed from the TV, as the Cuban band was strumming along.
The band saunters over to me and ask “Any requests, ma’am?” I have none; I am still processing the surrealism of watching the finals of a European cup with a Spanish announcer and Cuban companions in Havana. They ask where I am from and I share my Greek origins. Without my request or suggestion, the band instantly starts to perfectly play Never on Sunday (video above), a 1960 Greek song that won a ‘Best Original Song’ Oscar. Ironically, the song is often associated with Panathinaikos’ arch-rival team, but for me, it bears connotations of Greece, my childhood, black-and-white movies, my heritage, my memories.
There I am in Cuba, feeling like my country is calling me back, tugging at my heartstrings. The final Champions League game had not yet started, and I felt like my team – my beloved team that could not dream of playing in it – had already won.