A few weeks before the tournament, BBC aired a documentary about soccer culture in the two host countries, Poland and Ukraine, with the hilariously unsubtle title, “Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate.” There were hidden cameras showing Nazi salutes going unpunished at local matches and shots of deserted-seeming footpaths with anti-Semitic graffiti. Maybe most notably, there was former England international Sol Campbell, who is black, telling English fans of color, “Don’t risk [traveling to Poland or Ukraine]… because you could end up coming back in a coffin.”
Local officials and UEFA (unsurprisingly), as well as some of the documentary participants and English fan groups (surprisingly), have denounced the documentary (and similarly bleak follow-up reports) as being “sensationalist.” Regardless, the stories keep streaming in. Black Dutch players being heckled at a training session. Lone non-white Czech Republic player Theodor Gebre Selassie hearing “monkey chants” from the crowd.
There were 14 arrests made in Poznan, Poland, though, just before the Ireland-Croatia match. And Tuesday’s Poland-Russia match saw 184 people arrested.
Mega-talented madman Mario Balotelli, already infamous for a number of random stunts and tantrums (throwing darts at youth team players, setting off fireworks in his own bathroom, making a surprise visit to a women’s prison and, believe it or not, more) has sent a pretty clear message to potential racist boneheads:
“I will not accept racism at all. It’s unacceptable. If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.”
Fair enough. In the same interview, he also described himself as a “genius.” If Balotelli didn’t exist, the world would be forced to invent him. And his first game saw a typically inconsistent performance, so we’ll see what he has on store soccerwise for the rest of the tourney.
“The Austerity Bowl”! There are slim odds that this matchup will actually happen — Greece, despite having been surprise Euro winners in 2004 and picking up a decent point in their opening match, lost their second game to the Czech Republic — but it would be quite the story if it did.
Sadly, if it happened, we almost certainly would not get a “Victory”-style batshit crazy grudge match but instead probably a lot of bad Twitter jokes, Angela Merkel photoshops and corny media plotlines about “payback.” Oh well.
Similarly unlikely, but apparently some English bookmakers are actually taking bets on this. With the Eurozone in the disastrous state it’s in, nothing would be a surprise.
Joachim Low is a highly respected tactician, has molded one of the best young squads in the world and has one of his sweaters on display in a museum. Oh, and he’s a serial booger eater. Whatever works.
According to one German doctor, ingesting your own mucus can actually improve the immune system. He might be a lone looney, but still: he said it and he’s technically a doctor. Ergo, the entire German national team eats snot. I hope this ludicrous idea catches on, if only to hear the songs that rival nations’ fans would cook up to antagonize them. Hopefully no one would find a way to make it racist, but you never know.
Okay, it didn’t look great against Italy, but considering how badly Fernando Torres fluffed his chances when Coach Vicente del Bosque did finally bring a traditional striker on, they just might be trying it again. The game seemed to open up for Spain once Torres appeared as a forward focal point, but the goal did come before the substitution, and from the surprise starting midfielder/false nine Cesc Fabregas at that.
Sure, in a post-Total Football, post-Anthony Mason Point Forward, post-Chip Kelley’s Oregon world, the concept of an amorphous positional revolution isn’t quite… revolutionary anymore. And not everyone’s convinced. But still — if Spain win the European Championships largely playing 4-6-0? Crazy.
In anticipation of potential hooligan-type activities, Polish authorities have brought out all the big guns. Including one that induces urination. In addition to these “sonic cannons,” police are also prepared to use “dogs trained to bite you directly in the testicles,” according to the local Krakow Post.
Ukraine’s coach, Oleg Blokhin, is kinda askin’ for it. He seemed to have his players’ backs when he hinted that they’d only lost a pre-Euro friendly to Turkey because their food had been sabotaged. Paranoid and weird, yeah, but he did seem to be sticking up for his team. Unity and all that. But speaking to the press before their first group game, Blokhin was surprisingly candid, and brutal, about how he rates his players. To paraphrase: the attackers can’t score, the defenders can’t defend. It’s worth directly quoting Blokhin on his back line specifically:
“Figuratively speaking, our defenders do not even tackle properly.”
Considering one of those defenders is 6’6” with a steely gaze and sasquatch hands, I’m not sure that was a particularly wise statement.
9. An Elephant Might Be The Biggest Goat Of The Tournament
Unlike the famous and revered Paul the Octopus, Citta the Elephant clearly doesn’t know soccer. In fairness, the stakes for animal footy prediction were pretty high after Paul correctly called eight World Cup matches in 2010, but Citta still embarrassed herself by getting her first pick wrong straight away. (She tipped Poland to beat Greece, but the game ended in a 1-1 draw.)
A European consumer protection agency has found toxic elements, including lead (!), in the official replica jerseys of Spain, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, France. The agency is “worried” about these shirts, but also says Poland’s jerseys are dangerous enough to be “banned outright.” [Insert joke about toxic assets.]
Alex Naidus is a writer, musician and Rondo obsessive based in Brooklyn, NY.