The tournament is underway, and like the knights of old, nations have sent their young champions to battle for the acclaim and adulation of the continent. Or rather, Euro 2016 is about to take over the news cycle, bringing the might of geopolitical intrigue to a shuddering halt, purely to report on teenagers playing with balls in front of a stadium of middle aged, testosterone filled, drunks.
I have a confession you will not find overly surprising: I don’t care a jot about football. In fact, I care so little for football, that I almost considered not writing this piece at all. However, after hearing a torrent of gushing nostalgia about the “spirit of ‘96” I knew I had to speak up for the men of this country.
Let the Italians cry tears of passion into a Peroni bottle. Let Frenchmen get teary eyed at the sound of La Marseillaise. But let’s, for goodness sake, not become a nation of Gazzas over the 20 year anniversary of a minor tournament we didn’t even win.
I won’t criticise football too much, but it is hardly the game it once was. Just days ago, I sat watching a Portuguese player being sent from the pitch for attempting to kick an English player in the head. The friend who I was watching the game with was utterly outraged, saying “it’s so incredibly dangerous, he should never be on a pitch again.” After the game we watched a mixed martial arts fight where the primary aim of the sport is for one man to punch another into unconsciousness.
Do not mistake my dispassion for hatred. I will sit in a pub at some point and plant the memories of the European championships in my mind just in case England happen to win; or just on the off chance that anything of real note happens. I will even sit with friends and watch the games. But while I am watching grown men yelling, drinking, and crying over the course of 90 minutes of television, I will lose virtually all respect I have for them as adult males.
I alluded to it at the beginning of this piece but I’ll say it now, just to be clear: I actually think there is something seedy about being emotionally invested in polished young boys, rolling around with each other. Let’s not forget some of the boys should really be just finishing their exams.