Friday, June 8, 2012

Five Reasons We Should (All) Be Getting Excited for Euro 2012!

The presidential election slowly gathering momentum, the London Olympics promising to be bigger than ever, and a growingly convincing case for a pending Zombie Apocalypse - if we continue to be this lucky, this summer might turn out to be one for the history books!
In the midst of that overwhelming collection, the European Soccer Championships are desperately jostling to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of the others. Now don’t get me wrong, the 16-nation tournament (Euro 2012) being jointly hosted by Ukraine and Poland is a big deal all across Europe and the rest of the soccer-worshipping world: this article is not for them (although I would still read it because, well, it is a well-written piece.) This article is for those who only pay attention to the beautiful game when it is the World Cup and their respective nation is represented. While that is fair, there might be yet a reason to take an interest in this summer’s tournament.

So here goes: 5 compelling arguments why Euro 2012 will be worth your while this summer, regardless of where in the world you are.

5) The last major soccer tournament- ever! (possibly)

Fate would have it that the world ends on a non-World Cup year- according to the Mayans anyway.
With the last soccer World Cup having been played in 2010 and the next one due to be in Brazil in 2014, the European championships might be our last real opportunity to capture the magic of the world’s most beautiful game on a large international scale. Should the world meet its demise this December, we can walk away from wretched Earth having, for the very last time, experienced the wonder of the European power struggle manifested in 90 minute chunks of kick-around.

4) It Perfectly Complements the Olympics

This year’s Olympics in London are set to be arguably the biggest in competition history. Excitement has been drumming up with the Olympic Torch making its most epic journey around the world yet, the world cannot wait to see if Phelps and Bolt will duplicate their exploits from Beijing 2008 and what individual/teams will etch themselves into the annals of history by going ‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger.”

The one thing that is always missing from the games? Good football (soccer). Granted, there is a soccer tournament at the games, but it features the Under 23 (featuring only players under the age of twenty three and a couple that older) versions of represented countries. That is far from the best that nations have to offer. Besides, following an entire soccer tournament involves several 90 minute + games over weeks before someone can claim the gold medal. This tends to be rather annoying to follow right alongside, say, Usain Bolt, who will take all of a collective 30 seconds to claim his gold. Put simply, Olympic soccer tends to be a tedious investment in B-grade competition.

So how do the European Championships help remedy this quandary? Well, by preceding the Olympics by a couple of weeks, football doesn’t impose its overbearing popularity on the games. Also, the teams at Euro 2014 are the best the nations have to offer. So yes, it might not have the fanfare and universality of the World Cup, but it’s the hand we have been dealt this year…

Before every tournament of this magnitude, security fears always run rampant. This year’s games, however, have taken a particularly ugly turn, with severe racist allegations coming mainly from Western Europe (particularly the UK). The allegations, merited by several anti-Semitic and generally racist videos and reports taken from games being played in Poland and Ukraine, have caused concern among visitors. For example, families of Black English players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain have decided not to attend the games as a precaution. And, that, that is just a shame. Government officials and other authorities have come out and bluntly advised their citizens not to attend the games. The hosts, as expected, had countered the claims and say they have taken all the necessary security measures demanded by an event at this level. However, reports of Black Dutch players being taunted with monkey chants the day before the games started did little to put the world's hearts at ease.

Thus, while it is definitely unpleasant, it will be worth watching how Europe deals with the one plague that has demonized the continent for millennia now.

2) A level(er) European field

Once synonymous with progress and imperial modernity, it is no secret that the fortunes and influence of Europe have somewhat waned over the past few years. Debt crises, tensions, extremist attacks, and admissions of a failed multicultural society cast a gloomy shadow over the Old Continent.
For three weeks, Euro 2012 will bring the continent back together on a level field to do battle over their one unifying passion. From the Scandinavian nations to beleaguered Greece, and from the mighty Russia to the impressively diverse French national team; Europe should be relieved that focus will be on them for reasons exciting again!

1) Good Football
16 teams. Two host nations; the champions, runners up, and bronze medalists of the last two world cups. Crisitiano Ronaldo will be outdoing himself to cement himself as the world’s best player in the absence of his Argentine nemesis Lionel Messi. The English team will be looking to justify several dubious pre-tournament decisions. France and Italy will be chasing redemption after dismal showings at the 2010 World Cup. Greece will be eager to recreate the magic of their surprise 2004 tournament victory, etc. In recent years, Spain and Italy have simultaneously held both the European and world titles, giving credence to the argument that the champions of Europe just might be the best team in the world.


Again, the tournament is devoid of the universality of the World Cup, so we will always feel like something’s amiss. Nevertheless, we should still be guaranteed a good show!

So… Did I do it? Did I convince ye skeptics to spare a few hours between June 8th and July 1st to indulge in a feast of the Beautiful Game? 
Well, we tried…
(and if I did, here is a link that shall serve as your guide throughout the games- 

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