The Euros are here again. Not that you can tell. There was more bunting up for the presidential elections last month than there is for the football. It says a lot about the two countries. In France politics is more important than football. In the UK, it’s the other way around. And quite right too.
I can imagine the scene back home. Every shop, pub and post office from Lands End to Carlisle adorned in the flag of St. George with pictures of Gazza crying in the 1996 semi-final emblazoned on them. Supermarkets offering liver-bursting offers on beer: a thousand cans of lager for a tenner. Football pundits offering expert analysis on Wayne Rooney’s stool count while the police get ready for another summer of extreme violence.
I remember the Euros in 1996, quite vividly in fact, because a few of the matches were played in Nottingham where I was living. When I say matches, they were the matches nobody wanted to see.
At school, the First Team played on the lush Wembley grassed pitch in front of the pavilion, the Second Team a bit to the right, The Under 16’s a bit to the left, the Colts on the lower field, and the dregs on the pitches halfway up a Welsh mountain so nobody could see them. These were the Nottingham matches of Euro ’96.
Nevertheless, all the pubs stayed open until 12 o’clock and everybody thought it was the best thing the government had ever done. Ever! It also coincided with me finishing my degree, so I spent that June in the Newcastle Arms off Mansfield Road finally unshackled from the drudgery of Microscopes and Gel Synthesis.
For Euro 2000, I was in Poland teaching, but as they weren’t in the competition, nobody seemed to care. And as I didn’t have a TV and neither did anybody else, I can’t remember much about it, except that France won it and we got knocked out in the group stages.
During Euro 2004, I was in Exeter and remember that tournament quite well. Despite not having a TV again, I was working at Café Rouge in the centre of town, so we used to skip off after (or during) shifts to the pub to watch it. I was working with Italian and Spaniards and remember it being a pleasant experience to watch football with them. My Friend Franco considered football to be an extension of the theatre. A passion play acted out on terracotta lawns of Southern Italy in a warm breeze, rather than a bloody pitched battle fought on a boggy field.
Euro 2008, found me in Bristol living with a South African, a Pakistani and a Frenchman. They knew nothing about football and by this time I’d given up the idea of ever owning a TV. England weren’t in it, so again I can’t really remember much about it, and probably watched the key matches in the pub with my friend Rich.
It’s curious, but at the beginning of each Euro or World Cup I always think where I was living last time around. You should try this at home.
1994 World Cup – Cavaillon, France
1996 Euros – Nottingham
1998 World Cup – Nottingham
2000 Euros – Warsaw, Poland
2002 World Cup – Exeter
2004 Euros – Exeter
2006 World Cup – Falmouth
2008 Euro – Bristol
2010 World Cup – Bristol
2012 Euros – Lyon, France
Perhaps, I picked this habit up from my father. I remember him saying once, ‘I know it was 1978, because the 1978 World Cup in Argentina was on.’ We were talking about a family holiday in Bournemouth.
The next one after this is the 2014 World Cup in Rio. I’ll be forty. That’s all I know. Everything else is still being written, composed and tested, ready for another two years of me.
2014 – World Cup – ……… ………. *
*fill in later