PARIS – It seemed that all of France was looking to throw the coin between the French and Croatian captains of the men's football team on Sunday to decide who would receive the opening kick of the 2018 World Cup final in Russia.
From the Élysées champs to the low-income suburbs of Paris that many of the star players of the French team call home, the spectators included hopeful young people who dream of becoming football stars and older people who have seen all a life of games.
Perhaps nowhere was emotion as palpable as in the hometowns of France's multiracial team players, praised by politicians and regular citizens alike as an example of the nation's ability to overcome divisions in a increasingly diverse population.
"Once in a while, we are united, we are a country, a people," said Linda Bourja, 41, who postponed her summer vacation in Brittany to see the finale in Bondy, a predominantly immigrant suburb on the outskirts from Paris. 19-year-old football superstar Kylian Mbappé grew up.
"That does not happen very often, it's true, it should happen more, it's true," he added. "But today is a day for all of us, for Mbappé, for Bondy, for France, wherever we come from"
This is not any game, or even any final, for France. It's an opportunity to trade the nation's defeats to Portugal in the 2016 European Championship final and to Italy in the 2006 World Cup final. Both left the French fans to soccer, and many who they only wanted France to win on the world stage, feeling that the team could never reach the end.
People flocked to bars and coffee shops on Sunday, as well as 230 "fan zones" throughout France, some with more than half a dozen giant screens showing the game. The one on the Champ de Mars in Paris, at the base of the Eiffel Tower, has a capacity for 90,000 people.
Installed in small cities as well as in the larger cities of Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux, the zones are a way for almost anyone to have a free seat to watch the game, even if they could never afford to attend one in person.
Before the match even began, the sounds of singing and singing, including the national anthem, as well as drums On the streets across the country rang horns of fog and firecrackers.
In Marseille, fans gathered in the Vieux-Port, the natural harbor of the Mediterranean city, while inland, in Aix-en-Provence, the ever-quiet Cours Mirabeau was filled with supporters dressed in blue, White and red. In Lyon, fans flooded the central Place Bellecour, even when a storm threatened to moisten the city.
With the holiday season in full swing, attendees at the camps and rental houses on the French Riviera crowded around the televisions to catch the game. In Paris, which usually begins to empty at this time of year, the streets were unusually crowded, with families carrying banners and dizzying teenagers who finally ended the feared high school exam.