For all there was to see — the rich reds, neon yellows, (abundant) sweat stains and sunburnt skin, empty Heineken cans, Bud Light bottles, scarves, cigars and approximately a million lawn games — it was the sounds that were most overwhelming:
The honking of car horns for miles upon miles down Interstate 77, Dodge Durangos and GMC Yukons packed seven-deep with fervent soccer fans.
The pops and fizzes, not of beverages, but the aluminum cans containing them — hundreds of cans being cracked open, then dropped to the cement or, in rare cases, falling like basketballs into trash bins. Swish.
The soft thud each time foot meets ball, whether of children on the sidewalk outside Romare Bearden Park, or the professionals running full force at Bank of America Stadium.
Newspapers, television broadcasts, they will remember Sunday’s International Champions Cup match between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund as just the latest in a recurring series of summer soccer spectacles in Charlotte. They’ll note how Liverpool took the early 1-0 lead, and then how U.S. star Christian Pulisic almost single-handedly accounted for three Dortmund goals.
They’ll say how many people came to watch (55,447 if you were wondering), and where they traveled from, and for how long and ... well, anything quantifiable about Sunday will be recorded as such.
Those sounds? Those are what’s worth remembering most from a mega-event like this.
Unfortunately, those sounds are often the first sensations to be forgotten.
Some may seem mundane. An American woman speaking patchwork German? Next to actual Germans speaking their native tongue?
They’re simple observations, but they’re a reminder in an increasingly polarized Southern society that, yes, there is multiculturalism everywhere. There are pockets of people in our city from all over — Germany, Brazil, but also Guatemala and Belize — and days like Sunday, they get the beautiful (and rare) opportunity to embrace both their homes.
As kickoff drew nearer, so too did swarms of soccer fanatics to Bank of America Stadium, some wearing flags as makeshift capes, others with children draped on their backs instead. It was reminiscent of normal Sundays at this venue, when Carolina Panthers fans flock from adjourning towns and even states for a glimpse at their favorite athletes. For many Charlotteans, this day was no different. Exchange blue jerseys for red ones, and swap the names on the backs — there were no NEWTON, KUECHLY or DAVIS shirts to be seen; rather, there were PULISIC, GERRARD and SALAH.
Ask the policemen managing crowd control how the two compare, and their common reply — two meager words, but a sound still — explain the gravity of the occasion:
During the game, those individual sounds morphed and merged into larger ones, entire sections of strangers booing or cheering or cursing in unison. At Liverpool’s first goal, the end zone under David Tepper’s owner’s suite exploded, a fusion of inarticulate shouts and yells that all somehow came together. Later, as Dortmund piled on two goals in the game’s waning minutes, their collective silence offered as powerful a message.
Even postgame, Dortmund’s coach easily could have praised Pulisic, who scored twice and had another of his deflections turned into a third goal. But no need for all that. Instead, he was brief, speaking as if to embed another memory into everyone’s collective subconscious — “He was excellent ... especially at the end.”
It was a day. A hot, marvelous, winding, sloppy, sweaty, long day. But a memorable one, nonetheless.
When we remember it, let’s remember all of it: the sights and swigs of beer, sure.
But don’t discount the sounds.