Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What Euro Crisis?

I have no idea why some sporting events leave me cold, yet others whip me up into a frenzy like a big whisk and a bowl of defenseless angel delight mix in milk.  It seems I am a muddle of opposing views when it comes to sporting competitions, with no clear ideology running through to predict my views.  The Olympics – NO! Wimbledon – NO!  But European Championships – A BIG FAT YES!!

As I type this I have half an eye on the telly.  If I wanted to avoid distractions and noise, as is normally the case when writing, I would turn the TV off.  It is really important that it remains on today, though.  It is 6pm on a Tuesday evening, and I am watching a football match between Greece and the Czech Republic.  I am not Greek, nor Czech.  I don’t follow those countries’ football leagues in any way, and I am not being forced to view this game at gunpoint.  Why am I doing it then? Why am I typing away but insisting on keeping a noisy crowd cheering for two unknown teams in the corner of my living room?  Well, I’ll tell you why you insistent bastards!

I'm watching it RIGHT NOW!

It’s because it’s football time!  It’s the SUMMER OF FOOTBALL!  It’s all kicking off everywhere and there are Wall Charts and sweeps and ball related excitements everywhere I look!  It may be grey and gloomy outside - the promise of rain has been hovering about all day - yet when the footy is on, it is THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER!  Everything feels different, and new rules apply.

Rule 1 -  Mid-week drinking is not only acceptable but actively encouraged.  To abstain from beer during any England match is not only rude but downright unpatriotic. 

Rule 2 – Paying the bills on time, buying the children the new school shoes that they need and remembering to drop off ageing relatives at doctors’ appointments all come a clear second to the responsibility of keeping Wall Charts up-to-date.

Rule 3  At some point over the footballing month, and preferably to coincide with an England match, it is ESSENTIAL that you have a BBQ.  (Especially if you live in a flat.  It means more.)

For the rest of the year, I really don’t give a shit.  Competitions like the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League pass me by, with me having no clue as to who is playing for what, where, when and why.  I grew up in an Evertonian household.  To assert my independence, at the age of six I chose to support Liverpool.  Having no means in which to do this, however, it became little more than a family-based political stance.  I was never taken to Anfield or encouraged in my team choice and so my interest dwindled to the state it remains today.  I can tell you that Liverpool play in red, but that’s about it.
My footy-indifference dramatically fades into the background of my life, on the other hand, when it comes to England.  Perhaps it is my specific age that makes me love international, summer-held football competitions.  I remember Italia ’90 most clearly.  I was twelve (and yes I know that competition belongs to the World Cup and not the Euros, but they all have the same effect) and that particular summer was a belter with my memories all now merging into one – the heat/the patio door open all day and night/the start of my periods/excellent performances by England.  (Not all football related, but memorable nonetheless.  I can’t hear Nessun Dorma without getting a stomach twinge.)  Skip forward to the next competition of note, and it was Euro 96.  This was the start of my adult life.  I had just finished my A Levels, it was another boiling summer, my love of beer gardens began and there was lots of lovely England success on the pitch.  The Times columnist, Caitlin Moran, tweeted earlier this week that,
             “This tournament will always be called Euro 96 to me 
              * Britpop face *

And yesterday in the pub, a friend of mine said exactly the same thing.  Euro 96 was, for my generation perhaps, the best we have ever seen England play.  As a result, lots of thirty-somethings get inordinately excited about the start of this competition, and fantasise about the route to the final that England will undoubtedly tread.  It must be slightly dispiriting then, for the youth of today.  Not the really young like toddlers and children – they’ve got enough to worry about what the older generation wrecking the planet, ruining the economy, and creating Desperate Scousewives.  No, I mean the twenty-somethings and teenagers.  Those that are too young to remember the glory days of England’s international dominance; the days that it felt like we were a serious threat to any competition in which we played.  For those youngsters, the next month might not be as exciting as it could be.  The McClaren/Capello factor might make them assume we have no chance.  They might not be eagerly completing their wall chart twice a day, buying England flags to stick on their wing mirrors, or being creative with reasons for calling in sick on an England match day.  They might not care about this competition at all, and that would be a tragedy.  For the rest of us, it’s a month of BBQ burgers, beery bonhomie and hopefully some nail biting, edge of the seat football action.  I can’t bloody wait.
Stevo's sweep, adding untold excitement to all the fun.

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