Thursday, June 7, 2012

The European Championships, does anyone care?

This piece will undoubtedly provoke differing views and the writer will be open to accusations of self interest given that Scotland have not qualified yet again for a major finals. The article will also be written to a large degree from the angle of being Scottish and of watching the tournament therefore as a neutral.

The first irony is of course that in many ways it is more enjoyable (if you're Scottish) to watch a major finals from a neutral stance given that some kind of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory or an outright humiliation (thinking Iran, Peru, Costa Rica) simply cannot happen due to non participation.

The reality of course is that any fan would want their nation there regardless of their chances and the writer is in that sense no different, the prospect of being gubbed by Brazil is in many ways far better than beating a much lesser nation. There is the sense of occasion and the fact that major finals only come around every two years.

As the years have progressed the writer of this blog has found himself more and more disinterested in the major tournaments and whilst clearly open to cries of 'it's because you haven't qualified' that is only a small part of it. USA '94 remains one of the writers' favourite tournaments with Stoichkov, Romario, Dumitrescu, Maradona et all and Scotland were nowhere to be seen.

So what has changed? Age is a part of it definitely with increased frown lines and grey hairs replacing childish enthusiasm where games such as Paraguay versus Egypt would be classed as a 'must see'.

The second problem is the saturation of football on television. How can someone get excited about watching Messi or Ronaldo when you've been able to watch them twice a week for the past however many years? Looking forward to seeing players you'd only heard of was a huge part of the build up and anticipation.

The final part it would seem is the general apathy of the players towards International football as a whole. The World Cup and European Championships used to be the absolute pinnacle but these in many ways have been replaced by the Champions League given the hoarding of the world's best players by the superpowers of the G20 of European clubs.

The last half decent World Cup was France '98 and since then we've had a procession of tournaments with half fit or exhausted players who's club versus country stats would imply a distinct lack of interest. Wayne Rooney has spoken openly of the utter boredom he has experienced representing England at the last World Cup.

Whilst all of this can be put down to old age and nostalgia (we'd all complain if we couldn't see exactly the matches we wanted to see when we wanted to see them) there is no doubt that football has 'maxed out' to some degree and the players and fans have started to see International football as an additional chore.

There are of course fans that still delight in seeing their national side play, especially less spoiled fans of less successful clubs for whom the big tournaments are still a huge deal. The problem is that for the Playstation generation as a whole, there's just too much other choice.

Major finals of course do always provide great drama in the latter stages with the cut throat nature of the knockout format and the high stakes but the reality is that for the past few tournaments there has been little quality football to talk of (other than Spain's quite stunning team) with very few of the traditionally stronger national sides of a calibre that would stand up to some of their previous vintages.
The writer has of course paid up for his pay per view subscription for the tournament despite the fact that most of the games will kick off after midnight and no doubt many of the games will still be watched. There is not however anything like the same anticipation and that is not because Scotland are not there, we got used to that several years ago - No Nonsense.