Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

This Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman


June 24, 2021

When you’re running one of the most popular sport tournaments on the planet but it’s been delayed by a year because everyone keeps getting sick, what’s the best way to make sure people are watching when you finally get round to kick-off? If you’re a European soccer association, it’s apparently by making sure there’s nothing remotely normal about the event.

It’s not that Euro 2021 has been scheduled at strange times or is being held in an odd location – it’s business as usual for the basics. It’s more that the pitch has been beset by one strange event after another since the group stage began, although I’m not sure I can blame UEFA as I don’t suppose any of the drama could really have been achieved on purpose.

Denmark’s opening match set the tone when a player suddenly collapsed. Christian Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest, to the horror of everyone in the stadium.

The good news is that he’s recovering well, with his family by his side. It also warmed my heart to see the reaction of everyone else in the vicinity; rather than panicking, as I am certain I would have done, one player immediately called on the team to form a protective circle around Eriksen and the first responders.

It was to protect Eriksen’s privacy and for the sake of his family, Thomas Delaney said. He didn’t feel his friend needed the eyes of the world directly on him at that moment, so he did the best thing he could think of to be of use while the medics got to work.

Meanwhile, team captain Simon Kjaer had already jumped into action and initiated first aid while the medical team rushed towards the pitch, then turned his attention to comforting Eriksen’s partner. While all this was going on, supporters of both teams were chanting his name from the stands.

It was only when word came that Eriksen was now awake in hospital that the rest of the players agreed to continue the match. What could have been a tragedy became a display of the purest humanity.

The next day, an Austrian player was suspended after celebrating his goal with what appeared to be hateful gestures against the North Macedonian team. Marko Arnautovic has Serbian heritage and the players he gestured towards have Albanian heritage and there is apparently historical tension somewhere in that mix.

It’s something to do with Serbia’s former province, Kosovo, claiming independence, but I’m not sure why Serbia doesn’t like North Macedonia. Even when you’re European, I have to admit it’s hard to keep up with which country doesn’t like which other country and why and sometimes when.

One of the world’s most famous soccer players, Cristiano Ronaldo, made headlines early in the week for snubbing one of the sponsors of the championship. During a press conference, he moved bottles of Coca-Cola™️ away from him and yelled “agua!” at the crowd, which is Portuguese for “water.”

It wasn’t a huge surprise, as the man is fanatical about his health. What was, however, was the effect this had on the company’s share price: almost instantly, the market value of Coca-Cola reportedly dropped by an astonishing $4 billion.

On Tuesday, perhaps the most anticipated match of the tournament took place between Germany, one of the most consistently excellent teams in the world, and France, who as always are the favorites to win the big prize. (If you’re sensing a little grumpiness as I say that, it’s because my patriotism makes it difficult to type such a blasphemous sentence.)

But the most interesting thing about the match wasn’t the football. It wasn’t even the fact that one of Germany’s players appears to have wandered up to one of France’s star players and bitten him on the shoulder for no reason whatsoever.

No, it was a man who wanted to protest against the energy sector on behalf of Greenpeace. He attempted to sail meaningfully into the stadium bearing the slogan “Kick Out Oil” on his parachute, but that wasn’t what happened at all.

Instead, he got tangled in some wires, landed in a heap, brought a bunch of debris down on people’s heads and managed to injure several spectators in the process. Let’s just say his message ended up being more about whether soccer fans should support Greenpeace than anything else.

As for England, if you’re wondering whether we’ll get anywhere this time, I can assure you we absolutely will not. It’s not even our fault this time – it’s luck of the draw.

We started strong, beating the team that knocked us out of the World Cup a few years ago without seeming to break a sweat, which put us at the top of our group. We followed up by drawing against Scotland, which means there’s still a possibility we’ll end the group stage in the lead.

I was pleased about this until my brother – and personal soccer guru – talked me through the implications. This was the first time we’ve ever won our opening match during the European Championships, and, while that’s even more wonderful because it saw us redeem ourselves for a pathetic showing against the same team three years ago, I do wish we could have saved our winning ways for later.

I wish this because our first match in the knockout stages will be against one of three teams from the scariest group of them all. We’re either going to lose against Germany (a team too efficient to let us win,) France (who don’t let anyone else win, ever, because they’re really very selfish) or Portugal, which has Cristiano Ronaldo, who just set a record for the most goals ever scored in this tournament.

I spend the years between soccer championships anticipating the next one, but the events themselves are almost too stressful to actually enjoy. For the country that invented soccer in the first place, we surely ought to be winning without causing me panic attacks.

Still, I find myself nurturing a little more hope than usual, bearing in mind how this event is playing out. There’s been nothing normal about the tournament thus far, so would it be all that impossible for England to beat the odds and bring home the cup?


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