Friday, 10 June 2016

From football virginity to football celibacy

Avoiding EURO 2016: A self-experiment — Day One

Today is a big day for many. They will spend a big part of the next month watching overpaid young men from 24 different countries running around on picture-perfect pitches in The Fifth Republic.

Usually I am one of these many. And I have been since 1982 when I happened to enter our living room where our only(!) television set, with eight(!!) channels, was. My older brother in front of it, watching eleven men in white shirts and black shorts lining up, at least some of them trying to remember the German national anthem.

Superimposed on this picture was a pixelated yellowish font that spelled ‘ALEMANIA’ and a list of eleven numbers between 1 and 22, each followed by last names such as ‘SCHUMACHER’, ‘FOERSTER B’ or the (then) more exotic ‘LITTBARSKI’.

The TV speaker read out all eleven names. As he came to the name next to the number ‘8’, he said ‘Klaus Fischer’, and my brother spontaneously half-shouted ‘He is good!’ Still being at an age where one’s older brother held somewhat of a model role, Klaus Fischer was my idol from that day on. And to this day, the club he happened to play for those years, 1. FC Köln (known to English-speakers as FC Cologne — I still do not understand why the ‘1st’ in the club’s name is always omitted outside the German-speaking part of the World), has remained my favourite team.

It was in my Panini sticker album that I found out where he played. In 1980, without watching a single match, I already collected the stickers for the European Championship album, which I shared with my brother. Two years later, for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, I had my own sticker album. And I started watching some of the matches.

I continued to do so. Every other summer was a highlight, alternating between World Cups and European Championships. Even in the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium when I did not really follow club football that closely, I would still follow these big tournaments in even years.

Until now, 34 years after España 1982 and Klaus Fischer’s equalising bicycle kick in the extra time of a semifinal that to this day remains one of the most dramatic football matches ever. 17 big tournaments for national teams later — seventeen! — I have decided to conduct a self-experiment: To not follow this year’s alleged football feast. Instead I will publish a blogpost every day.

The reasons are manifold. We will get back to them over the course of the next 31 days.

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