I was reminded of 2010 a few nights ago. My memory was thrown back there thanks to an article in The Atlantic about friends who have died, yet still live through Facebook. It is an interesting take on a phenomenon that is now all too real for our ultra plugged-in generation of millennials, including myself. The story prompted me to read back through wall posts and messages of a friend I’d lost, and that brings me to where this summer intersects with that one.
Four years ago I was a 17-year-old trying at various degrees of success to woo what, for my money, is the greatest soccer player I’ve ever met. She was 16 then, and her name was Sarah Landauer.
She was a standout forward for local Eastside High School, destined to play college soccer somewhere. She dreamed of Davidson at that time although this Gainesville native wanted her to go to UF.
We bet dinner on who would win the 2010 World Cup and I picked England over Brazil in the final. I was as confident as you’d expect a teenage boy to be over a girl who thought she knew more than I did about sports — even if it was a sport I’d only played in video games.
She was unbelievably excited for that World Cup, so much so that her condition for the bet was that I had to listen to a Shakira song — a concept that bristled my adolescent idea of machismo — the official song of the 2010 tournament.
“I like the song. It’s about Africa,” she told me. “Every world cup has a theme song. And this is it. If you aren’t gonna actually listen to the song then I refuse to make a bet with you.”
Perhaps you remember the song, with the chorus:
Tsamina mina, eh eh / Waka waka, eh eh / Tsamina mina zangalewa / This time for Africa.
For those that don’t speak Cameroonian Fang, the chorus translates to “Come, do what you came to do, eh eh / where do you come from, eh eh / it is mine, wait / this one’s for Africa.”
Of course I watched the music video, putting up a front of disdain for it while on the inside not minding one bit that it was stuck in my head for weeks.
We “dated” briefly, or whatever you call taking a girl to Olive Garden and watching movies together at that age. Thankfully we stayed in touch after going our separate ways.
On a Friday night a few months later, I saw her at a baseball game.
The following Monday, I heard she had collapsed at track practice.
Tuesday evening I was told to come to the hospital and join our friends and her loved ones to say goodbye.
Wednesday morning I woke to the news that she was gone.
A year later we learned she had a disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. HCM thickens the heart muscle, overworking it to the point of failure.
Soon, this World Cup will be at its end. A month-long celebration of the beautiful game, played at the highest level for all the world to see. It has been nothing short of spectacular with highlight reel goals and late game heroics. This country rallied behind the sport of soccer like it never has before. We wrapped ourselves in the flag and we cheered the national team, but it hurts my heart that Sarah isn’t here to do it with us.
I’m sure she would have rejoiced with every one of Tim Howard’s 16 saves against Belgium. I wonder how sad she would have been to hear of Neymar’s fractured vertebrae and how much it would have thrilled her to watch Lionel Messi’s stoppage time goal against Iran.
This year’s World Cup has brought immense joy to us as viewers just as it did for a girl four years ago. I hope against hope Sarah could watch the trophy lifted over the heads of the victors Sunday. I wish this wonderful tournament could continue forever and I wish I could have one day to watch it with my friend.
We could make another friendly wager, although I’d probably end up having to take her to dinner again.
Richard Johnson is the online sports editor and a lifelong Gainesville resident. Lover of offensive line play and longform pieces; hater of chocolate and Chipotle.