Sunday, 19 June 2016

10 Days: 1:0 and 1:0

Avoiding EURO 2016: A self-experiment — Day Ten

We are on Day Ten of this year’s European football championships for national teams, played in France until 10 July, day of the final which I cannot watch anyway due to family commitments far more important than football.

We are on Day Ten on my self-experiment, the objective of which is to see if it is possible even for someone who does follow football regularly and is even lifetime member of the team he supports, to actually not follow what is supposed to be the climax of the season, even of the past couple of seasons.

We are on Day Ten, and the experiment is going well. Beyond expectations in fact. Two results is all I know for sure after ten days and thus probably twenty matches out of thirty-six in the group stage.

Those two results, are, even if hardly representative, symptomatic of one of my reasons not to bother following the tournament. Poland 1, Northern Ireland 0. Italy 1, Sweden 0. Two matches, two goals. Two teams that have not scored.

This, to me, is what the big tournaments have become. A struggle not to lose, more than a real attempt to win. Football is more about preventing defeat than about giving everything for victory. The three-point rule, introduced in England in 1981 and in most other places from 1994, has not changed that, on contrary. Especially in competitions with few matches in the group stage, it rather encourages defensive football especially from the supposedly weaker teams, instead of motivating them to go for gold.

As an 1. FC Köln supporter, you may say I am not one to get too loud about this, and I agree. Football has become so polarised that in most leagues, only a few big teams have a real possibility to finish at the top, leaving the others to do what they can to scrape together a point here, another one there, with the occasional three-pointer needed for survival, with the squad they have been able to trawl up from what remains after the big ones have vacuumed the player market every six months.

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