During Euro ’92 ITV’s anchorman, Elton Welsby, announced that France had lost to Denmark just after Sweden had beaten England. When I heard Elton Welsby announce the news to the nation I felt a disappointment so profound it still pricks me to this day (I was supporting France because I was great fan of Jean-Pierre Papin.). The heartless bastard just casually announced France’s defeat as if it was nothing, all I could do was stare at the TV in disbelief. I was dumbfounded, unable to get my head around France exiting the championship in the first round. I mean how could that have happened? They had won all their qualification matches, they had Jean-Pierre Papin, they had Cantona, they had Boli. Marseille were dead exciting to watch and my hero Michel was the manager. Surely Michel wouldn’t have failed,”Hero” surely hadn’t given me the wrong impression!!
Fortunately for my mental health when Euro’92 passes through my mind I also have quite a few other, mostly good, memories; Thomas Hassler’s late late free kick against the CIS, Basile Boli’s headbutt on Stuart Pearce, “Brolin… Dahlin …… Brolin ……… Brilliant!!!” , Henrik Anderson’s fractured knee cap, a Scottish fan being kissed by a sexy Swedish policewoman, van Basten’s missed penalty, John Jensen’s thunderbolt, the height of Adidas’ design wilderness;
In the month before the championships I was so excited I bought a French shirt and both of the available tournament guides (one from ITV and one from the BBC) but it wasn’t until I’d found a place for the Match magazine’s wallchart that I was finally ready. All I had to do then was anticipate the frisson of joy upon hearing the TV themes for the first time. When I heard the themes I’d know tournament was about to begin. The themes didn’t disappoint. The BBC opted for the musical representation of the European political ideal; Beethoven’s ”Ode to Joy” whereas ITV went for a different option;
I loved the BBC’s choice and grew to tolerate the cheesy ITV shite. I still tolerated it even after I noticed that the goal at the start of the titles was scored against Wales. Seeing the clip again provides a warm glow even though I inherently distrust ITV (I grew up in a “BBC house”) as it shows how good things used to be. The quiet assurance of yesterday’s Elton Welsby contrasts favourably the knowing smarm of today’s Adrian Chiles. Come back Elton all is forgiven!!!
In the fast-moving 3rd millennium clips of this nature feel almost like evidence from a distant past. The use of small grounds, in comparison to today’s behemoths, tells us that 1992 really was a different time. Euro ’92 was probably the last major championship when major tournament organisers deigned to use existing stadia. The grounds weren’t the only small thing about Euro ’92, the amount of hype was rather small too. Well the whole thing was over in just over two weeks and there just wasn’t the time for it.
I can’t help but look back on Euro ’92 with a lot of fondness; it took place in the glorious time before a-levels, jobs and consolidating your debts into one, easy-to-manage, monthly payment. It was the last tournament before my life became tainted by the worries and stresses of adult life.
Unfortunately it’s not 1992 any more. My biggest feeling about EURO 2012 is feeling under-whelmed at the prospect of another football tournament. I’ll obviously watch a lot of the tournament but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it very much. In the space of 20 years ……… Bloody hell “20 years”, no-one ever told me that you can feel a lot lot older in under 10 words………….. I’ve gone from joyous excitement to misanthropic annoyance. These feelings are not related to last Monday’s Panorama or the fact that it’s being held near Chernobyl, I felt underwhelmed about the last couple of tournaments too.
I’ve been thinking about the possible causes of my ennui for a bit now I have concluded that it’s connected to the devaluation of the concept of squad numbers. Let me explain; once upon a time the only place you were able to see players wearing squad numbers was during international tournaments.The same goes for numbers on the shorts as well. You’d see a number 22 in goal and a number 17 at left back. A number 20 would come on as a sub and a number 15 would try to make killer passes from midfield. Certain irregular football numbers could even become iconic for a time; 14 for Cruyff, 13 for Muller. 19 for Schillaci & Gazza. It certainly made a change from the common-or-garden 1 to 11.
Then about 20 years ago some idiot decided that it would be a good idea if they used squad numbers were in their country’s national league. Nowadays every league in the world uses squad numbers, and short numbers. Consequently part of the visual appeal of tournament football has been lost.
Mind you just about every detail that used to make tournaments feel special has been ruined by ubiquity; seeing foreign players and teams on television, kit designs, the design of stadium interiors, common advertising hoardings throughout a tournament, etc, etc. It’s no wonder that I’ve become disillusioned with tournaments the last two examples really affect how I experience football on TV. It may be just me but contemporary stadia are only interesting on the outside, their interiors are indistinguishable. In Euro ’92 you could see that the stadia were all different on the inside, nowadays can you really tell the difference between the updated Wembley, the Allianz Arena and Romania’s new national stadium?
I know who’s to blame for my ennui; PR “gurus”. These cunts have been so succesful at infecting football with their bullshit they have hoodwinked football officials into thinking that everything needs to be packaged and sold. Years ago the only event football official turned into a media events was the draw for the world cup finals, nowadays every champions league and Europa league draw has become an event.
Nowadays every match in UEFA and FIFA administered competitions has a profile that’s created by surrounded competitions with a corporate identity; common sponsors and tournament branding. Comical foreign pitch adverts, grainy coverage and strange-looking attire have been outlawed. The standardisation of presentation makes major championships feel less unique because every match in multi-national competitions starts to look and feel similar. By giving everything in football a profile nothing looks special but football officials don’t seem to have considered the idea that they may have devalued things.
The visual appeal of major tournament football is being lost but I wonder how many people care. You can guarantee that football officials won’t care about people like me. They won’t care how annoyed I am but then what do I matter? I’m just a fan.