A view of the terraces from Sam Delaney
A view of the terraces from Sam Delaney
“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone. Silence the pianos and with muffled drum. Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”
Hear that? It’s the chilling death rattle of Euro 2012. Shitting yourself? Don’t. We will all get through this together.
Throughout this tournament, we have examined the thoughts, emotions and behavior patterns of European football fans. We discovered how the Danes were the best fans in Europe. We discovered that Irish fans were prepared to give up their families in return for victory. We exposed the myth of the sophisticated Frenchman. We found that Poles try harder. We marveled at the bravery and guts of the Portuguese. We pined for the Cold War and we wondered what Gary Neville might look like dressed up as U2’s Adam Clayton.
Yes, some of the truths that The Sharp Fan Labs exposed were disturbing. They asked us questions that were difficult to answer, made us think thoughts we would have rather repressed and made us confront realities that would quite frankly put the willies up most members of polite society. Yes, it’s veered perilously into the choppy waters of rank xenophobia at times. But we at Fanageddon shall not run and hide what we have said. Because our analysis was not informed by ill-informed prejudice, saloon-bar hearsay or the grubby pamphleteering of the far-right. It was informed by facts, science, logic and a Wikipedia-refreshed degree in twentieth century political thought.
Our conclusions? That the Germans were undone by their own pointless belief in themselves. That I am probably the Son Of God. That Spanish fans are a bunch of fair-weather, narcissistic drama queens and that Italians are more likely to hang a national flag outside their homes than any other football fans in Europe. Which may make them the more worthy winners in tonight’s final. But that will count for nothing at kick off. Not even Mad Dog Michele Platini would propose a rule-change whereby the team with the most demonstrably passionate fans started the match with a two-goal advantage. That would be ludicrous. They say that a team can be driven to greater feats by the collective belief of their fans but that’s just bullshit. If we have discovered one thing above all others during this tournament, it’s that the footballing universe couldn’t give a monkey’s what the fans are thinking or feeling. The game will be decided solely by the twenty two expensively groomed gazillionaires competing on the field of play tonight.
That said, the Spanish have definitely got more to lose tonight. 6% of them told the Fan Labs that they would be prepared to give up sex FOREVER in return for their team triumphing tonight. And make no mistake, the unscrupulous and sinister white coated boffins of the Fan Lab CAN and WILL hold that 6% to their pledge should Iker Casillas lift the Delaunay trophy in Kiev.
What does all of this really mean? Once the trophy has been lifted, the talking done, the team of the tournament selected and the flags taken down, where do we all go from here? All this intensity of emotion, these powerful passions and pulsating hormones have to be channeled into something? The Olympics? Don’t make me laugh. There will be an anticlimax. There will be a sense of emptiness, of loneliness – a sort of mourning with no tangible form of closure. There will be no memorial service for Euro 2012, only Sue Barker and co beaming at us from their vantage point above the center court at Wimbledon? Is this how it is supposed to end? With John Inverdale’s frosty paw upon our trembling shoulder, ushering us into the purgatory of the Lawn Tennis Association’s second week?
You are lost, alone, bewildered. You log on. You scan the gossip pages for news of your club’s transfer activity. Did you sign that left back from Antwerp yet? No, he’s gone to Reading. A game of Fifa? You’ve still got the old version without Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck pre-programmed into the England squad. It just wouldn’t make sense. A cup of tea, a Dairylea dipper. It was all that was left in the fridge. The Sainsbury’s delivery isn’t until tomorrow. An email! It’s from your father in law. A jpeg of a funny sign on a Chinese toilet door. Haha! They can’t even write English probably. Xenophobic, yes. But scientifically so? Of course not. Funny? Piss off. Why does your father in law send you these things? Why can’t he leave you alone? You peer out the window at the suspicious looking types by the recycling bins. They glance over, you retreat into the shadows. Waiting for the kettle to boil. ‘Watching the news and not eating your tea.’ Getting pissed. Having a biscuit.
Stop being such a soppy tart. A football tournament, once it’s finished, never rally happened in the first place. Live tonight’s final. Feel your feelings, think your thoughts, shout your shouts at Mark Lawrenson. Then forget any of this ever happened. To dwell on Euro 2012, just as to dwell on life, is the pathetic preoccupation of maudlin fools and sentimental dickheads.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Effing Shakespeare wrote that. Get it? The candle is Euro 2012. See? No? Alright, how about this then, from Homer Simpson:
“Son, when you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: it’s how drunk you get.”
Bonjour, tout le monde, may all your 2012’s be Euro.
Follow us on Twitter if lout like, we might carry on sticking stuff up you never know @Fanageddon And don’t forget to press the like button.
Calm, steady, assured, and unflappable. That’s what the Italians have been like in this tournament. They have glided into the final as smoothly as a cruise ship on the Mediterranean sea. Perhaps that’s an unfortunate analogy, mind you.
Let’s just say they have gone this far with none of the fanfare, hyperbole and hype that has accompanied certain other teams. There was England with their familiar ‘We’re not really confident although we secretly are a bit confident oh whoops we’ve been knocked out that means we must be totally shit let’s just give up’ brand of hysteria. The Italians fixed us with their steely blue eyes and diplomatically stifled their smirks as we clumsily fell upon our own swords.
Then there was the Germans: all talk of destiny and dreams. Joachim Lowe was so confident about his team’s chances that he afforded himself thrice daily trips to the beauty salon for a wash and set. Clearly, the Germans had let the hype get inside their usually impenetrable Teutonic minds and allowed themselves to believe they were as good as people said they were. Last night, they were already thinking about contesting a final against Spain. And while they dreamt, the Italians stole into their bedroom and made sweet love to their wives before they even knew what was happening. Italians will do that to you – and if you happen to catch them at it, they will not flinch. They will simply shrug, adjust their Ray Bans (they always keep their sunglasses on during congress) and say something impossibly appeasing like: “You’re-a wife, she eez, ow you say? Very beautiful. And I am just a man with a man’s needs.” That’s basically what you saw Italy doing to Germany last night.
Speaking of last night, Mario Balotelli created what will be Euro 2012’s most memorable and iconic moment with his non-celebration of the second goal. “I do not celebrate when I score a goal because it is my job,” he had said. “A postman does not celebrate every time he delivers a letter.” Quite right. My brother used to be a postman. I rarely saw him celebrating anything, apart from the time he had a massive win on the fruity in the staff canteen. But the joy was short lived as his co-workers pounced on the winnings, clawing the coins away as they clunked out of the machine’s jaws. They are an unscrupulous breed, postal workers.
Keen observers of this organ might remember this post from June 14th in which I predicted that Italy would win Euro 2012. You might also remember that I re-iterated this prediction a few days later, here, despite the fact that their form had dropped off in the interim.
Look, I’m not saying I’m Jesus or anything BUT, I also quite clearly predicted the exact outcome of their quarter final against England in this post on June 21st. Look at the fourth paragraph down. I GOT IT EXACTLY RIGHT. Alright, I admit it, I am saying I am Jesus a bit. Even I myself can’t be totally sure yet but, you have to admit, all the sign are there.
Of course, Italy haven’t won anything yet. They must face Spain – Boring The Opposition Into Submission Since 2008 (official trademark) in Kiev on Sunday. But, as you will see with reference to posts such as this, this and this I have my suspicions about the pyscho-emotional make up of these Spaniards and fully expect my boys the Azzuri to put them to the sword (you’ll remember the Italians outplayed them in their opening group game).
So, where does this all leave us? Italy are great, Spain are pathetic and I am the Son Of God. Opinion? Conjecture? The preposterous ramblings of a relentless egomaniac teetering perilously on the edge of sanity? No – scientific facts, as unearthed, digested, dissected and presented with cold, clinical precision by the white-coated spods at Sharp Fan Labs.
My blessings be upon you. Forza Azzuri!
If you want more of the best journalism and predications in world football then follow us on Twitter @fanageddon. Also, press the Facebook like button. But if you really want to tap into the Fanageddon mindset, why not start going to church and praying to my father?
In between explanations of why England (that team who went undefeated through the tournament and were narrowly eliminated on penalties by Italy in the quarter finals) were no better at football than a pack of traumatised cats escaped from one of those laboratories where they make them smoke fags, Alan Hansen made an interesting point last night. He said that British teams used to have a monopoly on team spirit, work rate and determination. It was these qualities, he said, that enabled our club sides to dominate European tournaments for a large chunk of the seventies and eighties. But since then, the continentals had caught up with us on the whole ‘will-to win’ thing and, what with them already being superior to us in terms of actually kicking the ball and all that, we no longer had any edge whatsoever.
Which, when you think about it, is total bollocks (I said it was interesting, not true).
Was there really a time when British players were the only ones who cared about winning and the others sides were just having a bit of a laugh? I’m not sure that the great German, Dutch and Italian teams of yore entered into big tournaments indifferent to victory just as long as they managed to demonstrate their aptitude for back heels and nutmegs along the way.
To be winners, you need guts and talent. But if you can only have one of those two traits, you’re definitely better off with talent. If guts alone got you anywhere in football then Roy Hodgson would have picked Andy McNabb and Simon Weston to play up front for England. The idea that team spirit is all you need to succeed is bullshit. As is the idea that British players ever had more spirit than anyone else. They were just uglier and had worse haircuts, which made them look slightly more intimidating when they shouted and snarled near a camera.
But team spirit can provide a vital edge when you come up against a team who are just as talented as you. Tonight’s semi-final is a case in point. Most people would say the Germans are marginally more accomplished than the Italians. But the Italians, as we know, are cunning, duplicitous, determined - and fucking good at passing.
As this stage of any tournament the margins are minute. People thought Spain might walk over Portugal last night but they were wrong. Similarly, those who believe that Germany are going to walk into the final tonight are very much mistaken. These Italians make a habit of sneaking into finals on the quiet when no-one is looking (e.g, 1982, 2000, 2006). They will be absolutely convinced that they can defeat the Germans tonight.
Germany’s fans have a justified confidence in their team and 97% of them named team spirit as the trait they were most proud of. Meanwhile, 90% of Italian fans take similar pride in their own team spirit. One suspects the term ‘team spirit’ might mean different things in each country, mind you. The Germans will see it as grit, caste-iron determination and a never say die attitude. The Italians are more likely to see it as a collective willingness to punch Bastien Schweinsteiger in the nuts when the ref’s not looking.
Either definition is fine. You’ve got to play to your own strengths and seek out tiny advantages wherever you can find them. The BBC can make as many corny promos featuring Wayne Rooney with bowed head, slowly looking up at the camera, while the sound of a heartbeat grows ever louder in the background, as they like. John Terry can clench his fist and roar at his team mates until he is blue in the face. And England fans can dress up as crusaders and play the Great Escape on their stupid trumpets until they have lost the will to live. It simply isn’t a legitimate replacement for the sort of genuine team spirit we will see on display from both teams tonight.
What? You’re a Hollywood film producer, so high on a self-defeating cocktail of cocaine and barbiturates that you’ve stumbled across this blog and convinced yourself that it would make a great premise for a movie? Like Top Gun but about a guy who blogs about football rather than flies a fighter jet? And you want to start up a dialogue about contracts and casting ASAP? Well, fine. The first thing you should do is follow me on Twitter so we can negotiate in public. Find me @fanageddon Next, click the Facebook like button. If we’re gonna get this film made, we need to start generating some genuine heat around the concept, right? Lastly, please try not to sober up and/or die before this deal is in the bag, yeah? I’ve got to tell you, I am absolutely PSYCHED about this.
Belief. What is belief? How can German fans have gone into this tournament with the highest levels of confidence in their team but one of the lowest levels of belief?
Well, there’s a difference between having a conviction that your team is capable of winning and daring to dream that they might actually do so.
This German team have been painstakingly nurtured by the gentle, caring and doubtlessly well-manicured hands of first Jürgen Klinsman and then Joachim Lowe for the last five years. After successive failures at international tournaments, the German FA decided enough was enough and invested in a high-tech laboratory even more sophisticated than the Sharp Fan Labs, where they grew a new breed of irritatingly brilliant footballer who combined all the strength, steel and discipline we expect of Germans with a new grace, flare and imagination. The German fans are not idiots: they can see how spectacular their team is as well as the rest of us can.
But they cannot allow themselves to believe that they might actually win the tournament. It is too close, too tantalizing, too horribly tangible that they dare not contemplate it actually happening for fear of what disappointment might do to their hungry souls.
Whereas for fans of a traditionally rubbish team, like England, it’s easy to dream of success. The dream is so absurd, so fanciful, that when it fails to come true it’s easy for us to chuckle at ourselves, shrug our shoulders and start looking forward to the next ghastly festival of shattered hopes.
Remember, these Germans have not won a major tournament since 1996. That’s sixteen years without a cup. To England, that would be the mere blink of an eye. But to Germany it must feel like a lifetime. In trophy terms, they’re living in cat years. They used to have a tradition of winning at least one trophy per decade. Euro 96 must seem such a distant memory to many of those supporters now that they have trained their minds to never seriously contemplate victory ever again. Very sensible. They are taking preventative measures to maintain their sanity. Yet another thing we English could learn from.
More surprising is the steep decline in hope that fans of Spain have displayed over the past ten days. They went into Euro 2012 with a whacking great 92% belief in their team. Since then, they have dropped to 86%. Perhaps they were surprised to see such a modest progression through the early stages of the tournament. They shouldn’t have been. Spain won the world cup in 2010 by winning every single knockout match by one goal to nil. And the only game in which they have really let fly in this tournament so far was against Ireland, whom they beat by four goals (which to my mind doesn’t really count as Trapatoni’s team were pretty much handing out gimmes to everyone they played).
Arsenal in the George Graham era were the masters of the one nil victory and everyone labeled them boring. Spain have made an art form of achieving the same result and yet every pretentious pundit in Europe basically want to have sex with them. Tika taka? Boring rubbish more like (sorry, I need to work on that one a bit harder really).
Look, let’s all grow up a bit about this ‘real fan’ thing, yeah? Football is football. It’s a form of entertainment, there for everyone to enjoy. All this ‘Oh, you weren’t there in the seventies when we all carried ammonia in squirty bottles everywhere and even the kids smoked pipes and the football was totally shit so basically you’re not a human being in my eyes,’ stuff is elitist nonsense. Actually, worse than that, it’s nerdy and embarrassing. It’s the sort of pathetic, pedantic, obsession with detail and perceived authenticity that you get from stupid real ale fans.
And you know the sort of kids from school who grew up into real ale enthusiasts, don’t you? The type who played Dungeons And Dragons, listened to Pink Floyd and always had a suspicious looking layer of thin perspiration about their person.
They were the spods and now they’re trying to make themselves feel better by banging on relentlessly about dirty, tepid, toenail infused twat-beer.
But you’re not like them. When you were at school, you were into football. That meant you were cool, carefree and cavalier. The chicks dug you. The dudes wanted to be you, right? RIGHT?
Unless you weren’t into football when you were at school, of course. Unless the truth is that you only got into football after Euro 96 when a client offered you some tickets to a box at Chelsea. In which case YOU’RE A MUG, YOU’RE A CLOWN, YOU’RE NUFFING, YOU MUMMY’S BOY CHELSEA COME LATELY DISGRACE! HEAR ME? YOU’RE A DISGRACE!!
Hang on, hang on, I’m tying myself up in knots here, aren’t I? Let’s start again.
You don’t have to go to, like, every single game your team plays to prove your love for them. Look at the Spanish and the Italians. Research from Sharp Fan Labs shows that 14% of Italians have never got further than their sofa to watch the Azzuri in action. That’s fine. No problem. I’m sure they love their team just as much as us real fans, sorry I mean more committed fans, do. They’ve probably got a busy schedule. And tickets aren’t as affordable as they once were. And maybe their mums like to have them home for dinner at the table every evening so away games aren’t really viable.
The furthest 34% of Spaniards have gone to watch their precious tika-taka in action is the boozer. Fair enough. They sit there, drinking their strangely shaped glass of sherry and eating a small dish of weird looking miniature fish and overcooked cheese omelette, stroking their chins in contemplation of Iniesta’s ability to float in from wide positions and exploit pockets of space between midfield and attack. Like they think they’re Brian Sewell at a flaming Miro exhibition or something. But are they prepared to pay their devalued euros to actually visit the stadium, have a watery beer and a hot dog and chant mindless, Neanderthal-like abuse at the opposition fans for a couple of hours in the rain? No, they are not. Stupid Spanish, think they’re so much better than us.
Here’s a funny thing though: the Fan Labs have discovered that Greek, Irish and Croatian fans are the most passionate in Europe. They go to games, they have team tattoos, they shout their heads off and they generally act in the dumbass, irrational manner that all ‘proper’ fans are expected to. And all credit to them. Strange though, that teams with such relatively inauspicious histories are the ones with the most dedicated fans.
And that the teams who are genuinely successful on the pitch, like your Spains and your Italies, have a bunch of lazy, indifferent, part time Pedros for supporters.
What does this teach us? Effort and endeavour will not breed greater commitment among your fans, it will only breed complacency. But if you’re a bit rubbish? Those deluded, vulnerable, pathetic supporters of yours will keep coming back for more – convinced that if they stick around for long enough they will one day see their team achieve success. But they will not. You were born alone, you will die alone, nobody cares about you or your team, life is transient and until you learn to retain possession in the final third, the quarter finals are all most of you can ever hope for.
Like this kind of hogwash and balderdash? Yeah? Man, I really appreciate the feedback. I’ve been suffering from low self-esteem lately, to be honest. Please follow @fanageddon on Twitter and press the like button for Facebook.
Thanks to those joyless, draconian, misery guts on the Uefa scheduling committee, Europe’s football fans now have to face not one but two consecutive days without football. There are now forty-eight dreary, football-less hours stretching out before us that will feel more like a ten stretch in choky. And not a fun-choky like the ones in Porridge or Goodfellas either, but a really effing boring one where you spend all your time in solitary and end up having to make friends with a sparrow that occasionally lands on your window ledge. And why? Because like evil, manipulative drug dealers, Uefa like to toy with their customers, hooking us up with a succession of fixes over the course of two weeks, then withdrawing the good stuff just as we’re hooked and desperate. They render us grateful and dependent, just like those nasty Gallic heroin-peddlers who force Gene Hackman onto horse during his captivity in The French Connection Part Two.
They could easily have filled these spare days by having the eliminated teams compete in televised games of beach football or three-and-in. They could have left one place spare in the semi finals, to be decided upon by public vote based on a nominated player from each country performing ball skills before a panel of judges, including Jürgen Klinsman, Tomas Brolin and Tulisa from N Dubz. I don’t know, they could have done something.
Instead, we shall all be reduced to the traditional means of filling the gap days during international tournaments: re-enacting our favourite moments to far (usually in the back garden, when no-one is looking, using a half deflated football and casting your pet cat in the role of opposition centre back).
Personally, I was up bright and early today, washed, scrubbed, shaved and fed, dressed in full England kit including studded boots and shin pads, bouncing an elaborate one two off of my back wall and crashing headers past my mystified ginger Tom while shouting “Leeessscccooottt!!” at the top of my voice. Over and over again I performed the routine, inviting angry curtain twitches from the neighbours and concerned looks from my good lady wife, Anna. But I would not be put off. After last night’s disappointment in Kiev, this was simply the only way for a self respecting Englishman to respond. To have not recreated Joleon Lescott’s goal against France this morning would be like saying you loved Alessandro Pirlo, hated The Queen and wished that Germany had won the war after all. Well, I’m sorry, I just wasn’t raised that way.
According to research from Sharp Fan Labs, the goal re-creation ritual is not exclusive to England fans. When asked if they had ever re-enacted their favourite footballing moment, an average of 74% of all fans said that they had. Who doesn’t go misty eyed at childhood memories of World Cup Knock Outs in the schoolyard (it’s known as Wunderbare Welt Cup Fußball-Schlacht in Germany, Coup de Mode Du BOOM! in France and simply FootballSplat! In Holland)? Watching football is, in many ways, simply a springboard to the greater pleasure of re-enacting it with your mates.
Anyway, while all Euro fans seem to go in for this kind of kinky football role-play, some like it more than others. The keenest re-enactment fanatics are the Czechs, 91% of whom admit to dramatizing their favourite moments. For a young footballing nation who have achieved relatively little, this may sound surprising. But if your memories of footballing joy are so few, I suppose you treasure them all the more. One can only suppose that there’s a lot of Czech kids watching Karel Poborksy’s famously impudent goal against Portugal in Euro 96 on You Tube, then donning their Michael Bolton wigs and trying to perform something similar up the rec with their pals. 90% of Poland fans have done something similar, doubtlessly drawing upon the heroics of Grzegorz Lato at the 1974 World Cup for their inspiration. 75% of England fans have a tendency to make believe their favourite all time moments (Platt’s goal v Belgium in 1990, Paul Ince’s bleeding head against Italy in 1997 or perhaps Ray Wilkins petulant throwing of the ball at the ref against Morocco in 1986). And why the damned hell shouldn’t we?
What’s slightly annoying is that fans of Europe’s more successful teams are less likely to perform re-enactments. Only 54% of German fans have ever gone out into the schoolyard and decided to make like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Rudi Voller, Miroslav Klose or any of the other brilliant bastards who have brought them continuous success for the last bloody seventy years. 70% of Italians have done it. 71% of Spaniards. Just 66% of Dutch fans. These are the people who know what consistent success feels like. They don’t dream, they don’t live in the past and they don’t romanticise about what might have been. They look only forward, constantly scheming about how to capture that next precious moment of glory. And when it comes, they savour it for the briefest of moments before driving onwards, like hungry sharks in an ocean filled with wistful, distracted, neurotic fish like England, who are just sitting there waiting to be gobbled up.
Once you’ve got changed out of your England kit, washed your hands, scrubbed your knees and applied TCP to that graze on your elbow, you could follow us on Twitter @fanageddon. Then, if you’re feeling up to it, click the Facebook like button up there on the right too. Cheers!
Oh God. It’s happened. England’s supporters have got carried away again.
We started out with such modest dreams, such mundane aspirations. We’d have been happy to have come away from Euro 2012 happy to have just been allowed to take part, gratefully bowing and doffing our caps to nice Mr Platini as we backed out politely, having been humiliated by our Eurpoean betters. We knew we deserved little else.
Our self-esteem had hit rock bottom, which was probably for the best. It’s sometimes healthy to give up gracefully. It’s easy to get your head round failure. But hope? That stuff will kill you.
Well, guess what? Stupid, seductive, ruinous hope has made an unwelcome return to English hearts. Like Buggs Bunny when he dresses up as a lady, puts on all that make-up and hitches his skirt up to distract the feeble minds of his enemies, Roy Hodgson has dressed the England team up in an equally alluring fashion.
With their relaxed demeanours, team spirit, lung-bursting commitment and caste-iron resilience, they have got inside our minds and made us fall for them all over again.
The latest research from Sharp Fan Labs shows that 35% of England fans are confident of progressing past tonight’s quarter final. Just 32% of Italians are as confident about their own chances. When you’re more certain of victory than those swaggering Italians, all hair gel, loafers, cappuccinos and neatly ironed cashmere sweaters draped over their shoulders, then you know you’ve really lost the plot.
But who am I to laugh? I write this with a cords of St George painted on my face and an inexpensive nylon approximation of a chain mail crusaders outfit upon my person. Tonight, it is English passion versus Italian cheating. There should only really be one winner.
Wake up Italy! Siesta time is over! Drink up your cappuccinos and have mama wipe your bums! There is a football match that needs playing! FYI, we’ve been up since six.
Follow us on Twitter @fanageddon.com and please do the like button thing for a share on Facebook.
Just a quick one tonight. The French fans are the only people in Europe who seriously think their team can beat Spain over the next ninety minutes. According to Sharp Fan Labs, they are more confident than their Spanish counterparts, who are a pessimistic bunch. Only 51% of them are now confident of going all the way. Mind you, if your manager insists on breaking with every coaching convention in the history of the game by playing without a striker, what do you expect? What next Del Bosque? Playing without a ball? Bloody Spanish, with their daft surrealism. I always thought surrealism was just an excuse for laziness myself. Learn to bloody draw! Anyway, 81% of French fans reckon they’re nailed on to win Euro 2012. But news just in suggests only 300 of the deluded maniacs are actually in the stadium tonight. Total confidence with zero commitment. You’ve got to admire the arrogance that kind of attitude requires. Enjoy the game anyway folks and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @fanageddon
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda said that. But what did he know about football? Next to nothing. And yet there is something in his words that is applicable to the bitter rivalries that have helped turn this stupid game of ours into a global phenomena.
And let’s be clear, the game is stupid. It is not beautiful as Pele so famously suggested. A rose is beautiful, with its lovely delicate petals so perfectly folded into each other. Even the most committed of atheists must contemplate the existence of some divine architect or wondrous Geppetto figure when they look at a rose. But no one thinks like that when they watch a football match. At best, they might think: “That back four is well organised. They certainly seem to have put the hours in on the training pitch.”
Football is scruffy, messy and a bit strange, a bit like ex Labour Party leader Michael Foot. It is not beauty that has helped it become so popular. It is the anger, the fear, the hate and the suffering. But mostly the hate. The hatred that exists between rival teams is what ups the stakes, provokes such commitment, generates the passion and galvanizes the sense of loyalty amongst football fans. If we didn’t fear and/or hate each other, then football would not have all the fire and excitement that makes it so special. It would just be like any other form of entertainment, played out in quiet stadiums that felt like theatres with smiling faced nerds politely discussing the aesthetics of the match with each other over half time mini-tubs of Hagen Dasz. A bit like going to Arsenal, basically.
Where does all this hate come from? Often, as Yoda has suggested, it comes from fear. According to the latest data from Sharp Fan Labs, Germany remain the most feared team in Euro 2012, with 31% of all fans identifying them as the side that most filled them with trepidation. Does this mean that they’re also the most hated? Perhaps not, seeing as 20% of fans say they would switch to supporting Germany if their own nation were eliminated. This makes them the most popular second choice team in the tournament - but we should probably dismiss this statistical anomaly on the grounds that, as all us real fans know, having a second team is for dickheads.
Often the hatred is about more than just fear. There is so often political, historical and military reasons for animosity between two sets of fans. Tonight’s quarter final between Greece (incidentally, the most passionate fans in the Euros with a 31% pash-rating) and Germany will perhaps be the first to be played out against the backdrop of a raging economic dispute.
Due to the austerity measures being imposed upon the Greek people by Germany’s Angela Merkel, some people are saying this will be one of the biggest grudge matches ever. But, seriously, how can something as baffling and dull as monetary policy really serve as the basis of a footballing rivalry. Put it this way, I can’t see the Greek fans coming up with any decent chants that incorporate the terms of the Eurozone bail out, can you?
No, there will be something else underpinning the hatred that infuses tonight’s game. And make no mistake, it’s there alright: prior to the tournament, 51% of Greeks named Germany as the team they most wanted to defeat this summer. Why? It doesn’t matter why. Don’t question the animosity; just be grateful that it’s there at all.
On reflection, Yoda probably got it a bit wrong. What he should have said was: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to a rollicking good time!
Come on the Greeks!
Mmm, that’s some nice blogging, right? Am I right? Hello? Whatever. Just follow us Twitter @fanageddon and also please press that little blue Facebook like button up there.
Portugal versus the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic versus Portugal. The Portuguese against the Czechs. Nope, it’s no good. It doesn’t matter how you say it, this fixture doesn’t sound any more exciting.
Both of these teams started Euro 2012 disappointingly, the Czechs getting whipped by the Russians and the Portuguese more or less bending over and inviting the Germans to spank them one nil while they obediently called them ‘Vati.’
Since then, they have contrived to muddle out of their groups but, let’s all be honest about this, tonight’s encounter is a mere amuse bouche to ready our palates for the weekend’s main courses (I’m skipping over Germany v Greece tomorrow because it sounds even more silly than Czech Republic versus Portugal).
Spain versus France should be the best game of the tournament so far. Italy versus England will most likely be an intense, occasionally bad-tempered war of attrition that ends with Italy winning a penalty shoot-out.
But, of course, these are the mere opinions of one simple man, based on a mish mash of cursory research, flimsy prejudices, gut instinct and hours and hours and hours and hours of watching football matches.
They count for nothing and will almost certainly turn out to be incorrect. Mind you, the fact that I have made these predications doesn’t make them any less likely to happen either. The universe doesn’t care about the opinions of me or any other doofus. The universe is it’s own boss. It answers to no-one, plays by its own rules and is constantly moving the goal posts. The universe is the kind of guy who’ll just stop playing, pick up the ball and storm of home for its tea if you so much as look at him funny. Don’t try and mess with The Universe, that’s all I’m saying. He’s like Scarface, sitting in his mansion with a pile of yayo on his desk and an AK-47 fully loaded resting beside him. And if you start swaggering around like you reckon you’re Russell Grant, making confident predictions about what might or might not happen in the quarter finals of Euro 2012 over the next four days, you better get ready for him to fill you and your stupid opinions full of lead. And quite rightly so.
In other words, tonight’s game between Portugal and Czech Republic could well turn out to be an absolute gem. Certainly the fans seem to think so. How these football fans work, how they think, what they feel like, why their moods swing and what dwells within the darkest corners of their mortal souls: that’s one area that the universe cannot control. The Universe does not have access to man’s inner emotional circuitry. Only Sharp Fan Labs have that. Try as it might, The Universe simply doesn’t have the same level of rigorous research procedures as Sharp do. So screw you, Universe, this is one area where I’m in the driving seat.
The Czechs have quickly transformed from the least confident supporters in the tournament (33%) to the most confident (69%). It’s all very well winning your group with a succession of steady performances, like England have done, but getting spanked in your opening game and giving up all hope, only to dramatically steal victory from the clutches of defeat and triumph over the odds, like the Czechs did, is much more exhilarating. No wonder their fans have clearly gone a bit bananas.
As for the Portuguese, we learned in yesterday’s post how damned committed those gutsy Iberian warriors are. Twelve per cent of the lunatics have named a child after one of their national footballers. Which footballers? The research doesn’t say. We can only hope that most of them opted for ‘Cristiano’ and not their former reserve goalkeeper ‘Quim.’ They’re also more likely to have a team tattoo then any set of fans in Europe (8% of them have got themselves inked up, against a European average of 5%). These people are rabid, zealot-like acolytes of a team who have, after all, never actually won a major tournament. You’ve got admire that sort of passion. Or pity it. It’s hard to say which is the more dominant response really.
With the Czech fans on a such a rush of adrenaline-driven optimism and the Portuguese foaming at the mouth in the pre-match tattoo parlor, ill-advisedly getting a scale portrait of Helder Postiga etched over their own facial features, this encounter promises to be nothing short of explosive. Which, the keen eyed amongst you will notice, is the exact opposite of what I predicted just a few paragraphs ago. You see my friends, the universe truly is a strange and unpredictable master - and my mind is just its humble and passive servant.
Goodnight, sweet princes.
You like this don’t you? What? You prefer the Guardian’s coverage of the Euros? WELL SCREW YOU, YOU BLOODY COMMUNIST! Follow us on Twitter anyway @fanageddon. And don’t forget the like button!!