Football Fancy: Of Enemies and Secret Sympathies
Finally, the wait is over.
The Euro 2012 is in full swing, and boy, who would have thought that there would already be quite a few surprises after only three days?
It all started with a bang.
While the opening match of a big tournament is normally regarded as a simple warming up for the tournament (except for the two teams involved, of course), this year we saw a game between co-host country Poland and 2004 champion Greece that couldn’t contain more drama (hands down, this match was better than the World Cup final two years ago). It had everything, from two red cards over a saved penalty and bickering among the players to a bitter injury that ruled out Avraam Papadopoulos for the rest of the Euro 2012 after damaging knee ligaments.
The so-called “Death Group B” that sees the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and Denmark battling each other began with a defeat for the Dutch — even though they played pretty great but somehow forgot to score — and a win for the Germans — even though they played pretty mediocre but luckily didn’t forget to score.
And the best match so far was an exciting 1-1 that saw defending champions Spain play against 2006 World Cup winners Italy on Sunday night.
But when I was watching the Netherlands taking on Denmark — to check out the competition for Germany, mostly — I quickly realized that it is somewhat necessary to have an “enemy image” in football. Otherwise, it’s only half the fun.
As a German football fan, there are some nations we simply can’t stand. That’s just the way it is. There’s the long and painful feud we have with England that include unforgettable penalty shootouts and Wembley, arguably the most famous goal in the history of football (not to forget Maradona’s “hand of God” goal, of course).
There’s the rivalry with the Netherlands that had a sad and ugly climax in the notorious spitting incident that involved Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voeller.
And there’s Argentina — remember how they provoked a fight after they lost against Germany in 2006, and as a consequence, Torsten Frings was suspended for the semifinals? Remember how Maradona in an utmost arrogant manner called Thomas Mueller a ball boy?
And those incidents are only a few in a long list that have been accumulated over the years.
Of course, this only adds to the heated arguments and tension, but at the same time, it also makes up much of the fun when watching major tournaments like the Euro or World Cup.
It is so much easier to root for one team or be against another one when witnessing a football match: of course I was supporting Denmark because, well, I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for the Dutch. Of course I hope that France will win against England tonight, well, because I am German. Without having these “enemies,” many of the games wouldn’t be as fascinating to watch.
Because when we are not taking sides, we become strangely detached from the game. This happened when Russia faced the Czech Republic, and it will be the same for me when Sweden will play against the Ukraine. The interest is there, but the emotions are missing. And what is football if not 90 minutes of pure emotions? One and a half hours of ups and downs, joy and pain, cheerfulness and heartbreak?
That said, I must admit that even though I might have an aversion against several national teams, I have always secretly harbored sympathies for players of our enemy teams.
I was quite a big fan of Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. I even had a poster of Gullit sporting his signature dreadlocks in my room when I was younger.
I had a crush on Argentinean defender Martin Demichelis and think that David Beckham was an exceptional player in his heyday.
And everyone who loves football but doesn’t adore Lionel Messi must be out of their minds — no matter where they might come from.