So, the European Championships begins this weekend. Despite the BBC's constant badgering (they might as well have called their promotional campaign "Please Watch This Anyway!") I can't get terribly excited about it.
Clearly I'll watch it all, and clearly I'll blog about it incessantly (despite having absolutely no angle to take whatsoever) but for the first time in years I could happily let a major international football tournament pass me by.
I'm not sure why this is. On the face of it, the absence of any partial interest is probably unconsciously a factor. It's also the first European based football tournament I haven't physically attended in a decade. I think it's more straightforward than that, though, and I blame the Premiership and the Champions League.
When I was younger, and even into my twenties, I'd tune into the World Cup or European Championships to watch colourful fans and skills and players from far away lands of which I had no knowledge. I met a bunch of Slovenians in Amsterdam in 2000 and could name one of their squad (the mercurial playmaker Zlatko Zahovic) and yet got caught up in the atmosphere of that day precisely because they were "new" and unknown.
Now, fed on a diet of Premiership football and the Champions League, most of the mystique has gone. In 1990, no-one outside of Italy (and many inside!) had heard of Salvatore Schillaci but half the wonder of that tournament was the emergence of this little, bulging-eyed dynamo. The stars of Euro 2008 are likely to be Torres and Henry and Ballack, players who we know inside out.
We'll be surprised, as ever, a dark horse will give us a good story (a la Greece in 2004) and a wondergoal will come from an unknown as surely as it has from a Vasily Rats or a Tomas Skuhravy over the years. Back in the day we were lucky if we got to see one or two world class players on "Match of the Day" and so we tuned in eagerly to these summer tournaments to see the others in action. This summer we'll pretty much have seen it all before.
The knock-ons of England's not qualifying began to strike me as I was at the local supermarket the other day. 'That's an optimistically large arrangement of multi-pack Stella Artois', I thought. As for the BBC's promotional stuff, I had it down as 'Why Would You Give a F***?'.
Hoping that France, Italy and Germany have quiet campaigns, and that the coverage of C. Ronaldo is not so perversely over the top.
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