Euro 2012 : Hunter Davies’ column
You can find the French version of this column here.
I told my wife that for the next four weeks, if she has anything to say to me, to say it now, this minute, as I am going to be very busy and pre occupied till July 1, is that clear my petal, my cabbage, ma chou ?
« What about June 11 ? », she asked.
Hmm, let’s see, that’s England-France, I should be even busier that day, and heavily occupied, and sick as a parrot, probably throwing things.
« On our wedding anniversary ? »
I had forgotten about that. June 11 is our wedding anniversary. It comes round every year, has done for ever, but every second year there is a World Cup or a Euro and that day always happen to coincide with a real big game which I can’t possibly miss.
Every other year I do normally remember our wedding anniversary, if pushed. In a way it means we have only been married for half the years we think we have.
To indulge her, make her feel part of the Big Wide European World of Football I asked who she wanted to win on the opening day. I showed her my wall chart. In fact all my wall charts. I always cut them out of every newspaper and mag and pin them up. Football charts do furnish a room, I always think. Far better than wall paper. And cheaper.
For the opening game she wanted Poland to beat Greece. « Poor Poland », she said, « they have always had a hard time, they deserve some joy, and anyway Greece had won it in the past, though they were very lucky. And Poland is the home team. It will so depress them otherwise... »
See, she does know about football. And for game two, so she said, she wanted the Czechs to win, for similar reasons. A country who has gone through enough horrors. So has Russia, I said.
« The Russian people have had an awful time, but Russia’s horrors have been mainly self inflicted, by their so called rulers and dictators. The poor old Czechs have usually been pushed around.“
So, those were her wishes and predictions,as I settled down to the watch the first evening. Personally, I had no preferences. I just wanted to see two good games – but expecting them to be rubbish and boring, each playing not to lose their opening game. That’s usually how these big tournaments begin.
The opening ceremony consisted of young people in funny clothes running around aimlessly. Goodness, I thought, the England team is warming up already.
Then a bloke playing Chopin on the piano jumped up, got a football and began playing keepie-ups and heading the ball. Amazing. English players have enough trouble mastering one skill, such as standing around, without thinking of taking up another, far less the piano. Perhaps Roy Hodgson should get him citizenship at once. We have so many players who are injured, useless or missing gone home, he would definitely get a game.
During the game itself I was astounded to see one of the advertisements on the perimeter board saying ‘BANK PEKOU’. A bank I had never heard of, but presumably a Polish bank. Imagine a bank anywhere in Europe - where they are all known to be bastards, con men, thieves, liars and bankrupts- daring to raise their heads above the parapet. And where did they get the money from ? I bet they don’t pay up.
The match itself was excellent, very exciting, end to end, with Greece getting a man sent off, then Poland losing a man as well, a missed penalty, oh lots of incidents .
As a Tottenham Hotspur fan I really enjoyed it when the Polish goalie Szczesny got sent off – as of course he is also the Arsenal goalie, our deadly enemies. Har har har, serves him right, bloody Gooner.
I wondered how many football fans all over Europe will be cheering or booing over these next four weeks for such nasty, silly, unfair, prejudiced, partisan reasons ? Loads, I should think. It’s part of the fun.
The second game was even more exciting, with Russia scoring all those goals. Once again, I was looking through English and particularly North London eyes. Arshavin was excellent, yet he was useless at Arsenal, hardly getting a game in the end and the Arsenal crowd had turned against him. So what has happened to him now ? Obviously, he has been working on his bum. He was a fat little , podgy fellow at Arsenal, nervous and depressed, now he is a slim little fighter.
Pavlyuchenko, formerly of Spurs, has also been transformed. Unlike Arshavin, Super Pav was always liked by the Spurs crowd, we never turned against him. It was just that he was inconsistent and Harry went off him.
Perhaps it is because both of them are Home Players, thrive best in familiar surroundings, can’t hack abroad, in a different culture, different surroundings, different team mates . All football fans know that does happen.
The ref in that Russia- Czech game did good – it was Howard Webb of England, the World Cup final ref. I felt quite proud.
Well, we little Englanders have to hang on to such things when our players are obviously going to get well stuffed by France on June 11. Perhaps I should take the wife out instead. We shall see....
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