Something awesome is happening this weekend, something even bigger than the opening of Prometheus.
UEFA Euro 2012 will kick off on June 8th. Over the following weeks, the 16 teams will battle it out in one of the world’s best and most celebrated soccer competitions. Aware that our friends in Europe are a little more soccer crazy than us Yankees 1, we’ve included separate lists for both soccer fans and, well, everyone else.
For the Soccer Fans
- Euro might be more powerful than the World Cup
While few things compare to the massive global interest spawned by the World Cup, Euros are a stronger overall tournament. FIFA ranks every national team in the world according to a highly complex formula that includes team performance, a complicated algorithm involving oil futures and a highly trained team of chimpanzees that can read Magic 8-Balls. In spite of the notorious imprecision of FIFA’s chimpanzee derived rankings, they still point toward the sheer soccer power on display at Euro 2012. 75% of the tournament is ranked in the top 20 teams in the world. Better teams lead to more competition, more competition leads to more fun for the viewers.
- Best teams you won’t see at the World Cup
Europe is still the strongest soccer-playing region in the world, and Euro 2012 will showcase some thoroughly entertaining teams that failed to make it to World Cup 2010, including Croatia (8), Russia (13), and Sweden (17).
- Exciting Players on Display
As Nike has been quick to highlight, summer tournaments have traditionally been a place for young or unheralded players to sparkle. Players like France’s Yann M’Vila, Denmark’s Christian Erikson, and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski provide a scintillating set of subplots as these young players crash onto the world stage.
- Continental Rivalries
England opening against France? A possible showdown between Spain and Germany in the final rounds? Did you read anything in your high school history class?
- It’s the off-season
For fans of any sport, there’s no worse time of year than the off-season. Most club soccer wrapped up at the end of May, leaving soccer fans desperate for a fix. Euro 2012 can help ease our withdrawal.
Reasons everyone can get behind
- Europe’s ongoing problems with race will be on full display
The rosters of Europe’s top professional teams reflect the global reach of soccer, and the national rosters of teams like England, France, and even Germany reflect the reality of increasing racial and ethnic diversity in Europe. Despite concerted anti-racism campaigns soccer has been a highly visible theatre for racial tensions and racist attitudes in Europe. Fears about racial abuse in host countries Poland and Ukraine have prompted strong comments from the admittedly temperamental Italian striker Mario Balotelli. The families of English players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have reacted to advice from the British Foreign Office and opted not to attend the tournament. Although staying at home may not shield them from the scourge of racism. Former English captain John Terry, is facing charges of racially abusing an opponent. While we hope that the better side of humanity will be on display and Euro 2012 can avoid racial ugliness, it’s clear that Europe’s ongoing struggle to create racially and culturally pluralistic societies will be a crucial talking point this summer.
- Soccer is Europe’s biggest religion
In many parts of western Europe, religious observance has been plummeting for almost a century and more and more western Europeans describe themselves as secular or non-religious. While churches are empty, however, soccer stadiums are packed, and it seems clear that sports, especially soccer, seems to fill many people’s need for communal solidarity and ritual. Sports fans or not, Christians would do well to ask themselves what human needs are being met by passionate sports fandom, and whether churches can better meet those needs.
- How will international soccer tackle corruption?
Soccer has been hit with a number of major corruption accusations in the last few years, but the hottest topic at the moment is the growing scandal surrounding possible “match-fixing” in Italy. Apparently soccer matches are much easier to fix than the Italian economy.
- World finances are a mess; so are soccer’s
European soccer officials have recently rolled out “financial fair-play” measures in an effort to corral the massive spending, and sizeable debts, of Europe’s biggest clubs. In 2010, Europe’s 10 most indebted clubs owed a combined total of 5.74 billion dollars. One of Europe’s famous clubs, Scotland’s Rangers F.C., has gone into bankruptcy. Soccer mirrors many of the ambiguities of the global economy, most especially in the complicated factors related to debt and the more complicated problem of how to solve an unstable financial situation.
- Soccer is an inescapable part world culture
Have a friend from Europe, Africa, or South America? To know about soccer is to know a little bit about world culture.
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- E. B. White helps clarify the varied uses of Yankee
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast ↩