Thursday, November 19, 2015

Should the European Championship go ahead?

Horrible terrorist attacks create fear, and the recent attack in Paris has swept fear over Europe, and not least over football, as the Stade de France was also targeted in the last attack. Tonight, Germany-Netherlands was cancelled in Hannover due to a credible terrorist threat.
Can France really hold a European Championship where they guarantee security? (the former great Just Fontaine recently said in an interview that it should be cancelled). Will the continuous threat mean empty stadiums and a prison-like atmosphere in the stadiums and host cities? Will the tightening security mean more harassment and less freedom for football fans...?
Yoda once said that fear leads to anger, and anger leads to suffering. Beyond football, the reaction of Europeans to these horrible attacks is fear and anger, and this may lead to a lot of suffering in Europe and beyond. Football is only an unimportant side event to all this, but if the European Championship is held in a climate of fear and anger, it may be better to cancel it completely. Football is an expression of the society we live in, and there are many things wrong right now, and football cannot and will not contribute in any way to solve them. If anything, football is more something that exacerbates differences. It is not, as many say, a friendly competition between gentlemen, but rather the "gentle" expression of ugly nationalism. Beyond the fear, the anger could erupt into many ugly actions.
I hope I am wrong, but the risk of going ahead should be discussed more openly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Zlatan to the European Championship

When two teams that are not among the top 20 of European football clash in a play-off match to qualify for the European Championship, one is justified in not expecting much in terms of quality. Denmark and Sweden was one of these play-off matches: two former greats who have fallen low, but with one difference between these two mediocre sides: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still one of the greatest players in the world, and the one to watch out for in France. He played around a Danish side that was better than the Swedish at times, but who have no striker of any quality whatsoever, justifying Denmark's awful scoring record in qualification.
While Sweden has Zlatan, they will have to improve significantly if they are to have any chance at the European Championship. In the meantime, Denmark will have to work from scratch: Morten Olsen, the manager since 2000, is stepping down. He has been leading Danish football for 15 years, and the transition will not be easy, in particular because Denmark lacks talent in its youth. So it is unlikely to see Denmark in any major tournament for the foreseeable future.

But big congratulations to Sweden and in particular to the fantastic Zlatan!