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International Football Tournaments Are To Be Cherished



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In eighteen days’ time, Euro 2012 will start. Twenty three days of international tournament football, with matches being played almost every day for the twenty-three day duration. If you didn’t know or understand football supporters you may think that there wouldn’t be much interest. I mean the club season started in July and in late May we still have two playoff finals to take place. International football is plainly not of the quality or excitement of modern club football. Also this season we’ve had the most dramatic Premier League finale in decades, a captivating Champions League and amazing matches and goals. You’d think fans were footballed out.

Is this true though? In my case anyway, not at all. I think World Cups and European Championships are wonderful and the actual football that takes place is only part of it. It all starts the week before.  Special previews in the papers, magazines do special editions, podcasts pop up from summer hibernation. Lots and lots of build-up. Lots of talk about new players to terrestrial TV screens who in days of yore you’d never have heard of but now, in this age of Football Manager and millions of TV channels you nod sagely at talk of Oliver Giroud’s breakout season for Montpellier, Christian Eriksen being Denmark’s new wonderkid and Jose Bosingwa’s self-imposed exile from the Portuguese team.

Then you get the wall charts. Most offices and work places I’ve seen have these. I remember once at school going to see some IT technicians over some petty computer problem I had and seeing a World Cup wall chart where Uruguay was spelt ‘Uraguay’. I found that symbolic for what it must be like to be an IT technician at a secondary school. I also at the last World Cup plonked one on the wall of the upstairs toilet in my house. I filled in the results while having my early morning dump

The group stages are the best. This is because you get two or three games a day. Having football around the clock I find is great. If you don’t like football and live with people who like football I can imagine how loathed and feared having constant football for days on end can be. But I always abide by the principle that any football is better than no football at all. You may not always watch football but as long as there’s football to be read, analysed and discussed I’m happy.

The World Cup was great in that respect because in 2010 at least you had games kicking off at lunchtime. I’d occasionally watch games in my school’s sixth form common room before afternoon lessons. On one occasion I put £5 on North Korea to beat Portugal at 10/1. When I stopped watching late in the 1st half it was only 1-0 Portugal. Then in my lesson we were watching a film and someone in my class was given the job of updating us World Cup watchers with the score. By the time we were halfway through the film North Korea had lost 7-0 and my friends were in hysterics. The mockery was much worse than the lost £5.

Having constant football to watch and talk about is the main reason why I love World Cups and European Championships. I may be showing a shocking lack of ambition by having little desire to do anything other than watch football monotonously for weeks on end, but sod it it’s not as if I want to do anything else.  I even quit the subject of Economics while doing my A-Levels earlier than I was supposed to in the last World Cup. Partly because I was planning to quit it anyway but mainly because I wanted to watch Argentina-South Korea one afternoon and the match was on while I was supposed to be in an Economics lesson drawing endless supply and demand graphs I didn’t understand. I can still remember playing football at lunchtime and then watching the 2nd half of Argentina-South Korea to see a couple of super Higuain goals and thinking all was right with the world.

Football on the TV doesn’t make you meet new people you’d rather avoid, laugh at you for not having a spouse, chide you for your lack of social life or lack of enthusiasm for dubstep and modern fashion trends. Neither do wall charts or special edition podcasts or discussions about the cracking goal Russia’s left winger scored the previous night. The more reassuring wall charts and live matches on BBC1 and constant football chat, the better as far as I’m concerned.

I’m not even enormously bothered if the football is shite. The last World Cup for example was dreadful. I remember using the World Cup as a motivating tool to work through my AS level exams (the other motivation tool was finding every episode of Twin Peaks for free on the internet and watching two of those a day) and there were about two good games in a month of football. But given that I got a month of constant football I wasn’t complaining. And when the football is good like it was at Euro 2008, the better. I remember Turkey’s miraculous comebacks and Turks in my part of North London beeping horns and having parties at their native country’s successes.

I guess the negatives are that there is an uncomfortable stench of jingoism and patriotism when England are involved. Samuel Johnson once said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and he wasn’t wrong. The England team give a mouthpiece to a minority of idiots (known as ‘England fans’) who don’t know what they’re talking about and can be nastily aggressive if you aren’t some flag toting national anthem singing stooge. There’s more chance of George Osborne renouncing capitalism and condoning Keynesian economic policies than some drunken loon with little flags of St George painted on his face not belting out some horribly nationalistic, probably anti-German chant.

Obviously FIFA and UEFA do their best to ruin tournaments by doing little less than pillaging the country or countries hosting the tournament. They demand new stadia that are not necessary and quickly become white elephants. They are ferocious in the manner of a totalitarian government on sponsorship and marketing issues. Tickets scandalously go to corporate people who’ve done nothing their whole lives except lick arse and screw people out of money and get rewarded for this with seats situated on the halfway line for the Euro 2012 final. They grant tournaments to countries who imprison political opponents (Ukraine and Russia) and to Qatar where it’s so hot they don’t have natural grass, and where they see homosexuality as a criminal offence. Money is God.

If I was more conscientious and more politically minded I’d possibly boycott and protest these tournaments and their injustices. But to protest against one thing, that would start a snowball effect of loads of other things I should protest about and I’d end up unable to do or watch anything. All football has injustices with its governance somewhere down the line. And well, I want to watch football.

I want to watch football. In my life that’s largely what I do. And with World Cups or the upcoming European Championships, all football fans will have the chance to watch more and more football. And thank god we have the opportunity to do so starting on June the 8th.