The boys of summer are all on the pitch during euro2012
Years ago, after arriving at our local field for youth “football” training, I took special notice of our houseguest, a young English coach who was staying with us while he was working in America. He was in a state of shock– his face ashen. A local international footballer showed up to this training session. An incredible athlete was sitting on the sidelines to enjoy a beautiful summer day with his family.
“Don’t you know that back in England, if commoners were this close to an athlete of this stature, that he would be mauled with cameras and autograph seekers?!”
“Really?” I responded, not understanding the magnitude of the moment for this young coach.
I looked in my new friend’s eyes and said “You are going to do just fine with your session. Carry on like you always do and it will be okay”.
That week came and went, but it gave me a glimpse into “the beautiful game.” As an American, I had no idea how much I would grow to love the sport of soccer, er… I mean “football”. Nicole and I attended our first international match with close friends during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was Mexico v. Africa. The pageantry of the fans was alluring. We developed a taste for the game. That match poster is proudly framed at home!
As years have unfolded, football has brought much joy into life. The “full on” tour of Camp Nou in Barcelona is a religious experience. Seeing Lionel Messi play before your eyes is mesmerizing. I would have never taken it as seriously as I did except that two of our footballer friends had “strongly recommended” going. How did they know we would love it so much? My son, kissing the pylons of the stadium upon departure, saying “See you next time!”
Don’t get me wrong. I realize there is a very dark side to the game which is lightly illustrated in the book “How Soccer Explains the World” by Frank Foer. There are so many varying opinions on the violence, racism or mega bucks that are infused by outside investors into any particular club. “The Two Escobars” is a chilling documentary on the state of affairs in Colombia during the 1990’s when drug cartels mixed with the obsession of football.
There is nothing better during World Cup or euro2012 to be in the market and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger because they see the jersey you are wearing. There is so much community in this game, a passion that I don’t see in other sports. The boys of summer couldn’t have come at a better time! There is nothing more desirable than sneaking in a mid-day match to see who advances in the tournament. Facebook bristles with commentary from friends we have made across the globe. It’s downright fun to be involved. For those die-hard American football and baseball sports fans, I have one thing to say in response to your “glorified kick-ball” opinion. You are so, so mistaken.
In honor of the euro2012 matches, I’m including a list of “nicknames” for each of the participating teams. Some names are very lively and filled with passion and some not so much. I particularly enjoy the cross section of group three. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than when I see that secret message printed on the inside of the Netherlands jersey, just opposite of the logo on the breast of the shirt… Oranje Leeuwen (Orange Lions)…
It makes football laundry a little more enjoyable for this soccer mom.
Russia- Sbornaya (National Team)
Czech Republic- Nároďák (The National Team)
Poland- Bialo Czerwoni (The Whites and Reds)
Greece- To Piratiko (The Pirate Ship)
Germany- Nationalmannschaft (National Team)
Portugal- Selecção das Quinas (National Team of Shields)
Demark- Danish Dynamite, Olsen-Banden (The Olsen Gang)
Netherlands- The Oranje (The Orange), Clockwork Orange
Spain- La Furia Roja (The Red Fury)
Croatia- Vatreni (The Fiery Boys)
Italy- Azzuri, (Sky Blues)
Republic of Ireland (The Boys in Green)
France- (Les Bleus)
England- (The Three Lions)
Ukraine- Zbirna (National Team)
Sweden- Blågult (The Blues and Yellows), Kronos (The Crowns)