The EURO Cup 2016 is quickly approaching its final game, scheduled for Sunday, July 10th here in Paris and, so far, it has been an interesting and entertaining event – with a couple of surprises (such as England exiting, thanks to Iceland, just a few days after Brexit). As an added bonus, France is still in the running for the championship. The Euro Cup began in 1960 and is second only to the World Cup as far as popularity and sportive importance is concerned. You can follow the scores and schedule on the UEFA official website (www.uefa.com), but here I would like to give you a few Fun Facts you can toss around at the pub as you’re watching a game.
- Whistle Swallowing as It Applies to Trophy History – The coveted prize the 24 soccer teams are fighting for is named the “Henri Delaunay” trophy. Henri was the first General Secretary of the French Federation of Football and, basically, the Euro Championship was his idea, way back in 1927.
After playing soccer for the Paris team, Étoile des Deux Lacs, Henri became a referee. He stopped that, however, when a soccer ball struck him full in the face, forcing him to swallow his whistle and breaking two teeth in the process. He turned to a much safer job of Football Club Administrator. Unfortunately, he died in 1955 and didn’t get to see his dream come true when the first Euro Championship was held in France in 1960. His son, Pierre Delaunay, who replaced him as UEFA’s General Secretary, named the trophy after his father.
The silver trophy weighs 8 kilos (18 lbs.) and is 60 centimeters high (23.6 inches). It had a “makeover” in 2008 by the Arthus Bertrand Company. The winners are engraved on the trophy and the winning team gets to keep it for four years, after which time they have to pass it on to their successor. Spain was the first team to hold the newly-designed trophy in 2008 and, since they won in both 2008 and 2012, they kept it for eight years. This is not happening this year – Spain lost to Italy 0-2 in the second week of the tournament.
- Soccer and Scandal – Now, one might ask, who’s running this giant sporting event? Who’s at the head of UEFA? The answer, as it applies to the UEFA management, is no one. There is no UEFA president to preside over the most prestigious once-every-four-year happening of this soccer organization. Not at this time, anyway. The latest UEFA administrative head was Michel Platini, a famous soccer
player who was part of the French team that won the Cup in 1984. He was forced to resign in May of 2016, following an ethics investigation of an alleged “disloyal payment” of two million Euros (about 2.2 million US dollars) back in 2011. The payment to Platini was from Sepp Blatter, his former FIFA counterpart. UEFA has decided not to appoint an interim-president and will hold an election in September. We’ll have to wait and see who will give the trophy to the winning team on Sunday.
- “Make Love – Not War” during Euro 2016 – In an effort to stop the spread of AIDS, Euro 2016 has launched a daring marketing campaign using naked soccer fans whose bodies have been painted in unexpected places with their country’s national colors. There are four posters of different couples adorning the subway halls in Paris as well as covering social media networks.
AIDES, the non-profit organization which is behind this campaign has said that the message they want to convey is to “Celebrate the universal value of love and sexual diversity, while at the same time reminding people of the importance of protection.”I thought these photos were a bit risqué when I first saw them, but, in general, I think sexual healing is a good thing and why not as part of a sporting event? Also, people get to brush up on their geographical knowledge as they try to guess what flags the models are (kind of) wearing.
- The Best Euro 2016 Fans are the Irish – Please take a few minutes to watch the video with examples of the best fans ever – the singing Irish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC-X-I3hlHc Sure, they were drunk but they weren’t disorderly. They were singing incessantly – serenading a nun on the train to Bordeaux (that’s right, spontaneously breaking into a rocking version of “The Lord’s Prayer”); chanting and smiling with the French police and flattering a pretty French girl with their version of “I Love You Baby.”
There was also a group rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the Parisian subway, which delighted a little baby and overwhelmed the parents – just a little. Some Irish fans helped an elderly couple change a flat tire. They picked up their own trash. The Irish lost the tournament but they won the respect of a lot of French people – and that is not an easy thing to do.
I will miss Euro 2016 when it’s over. I’ve enjoyed the variety of nationalities that have floated through Paris proudly dressed in their national colors and creatively silly costumes. I like the fact that all the soccer players have to play with their “Homies” – even if they make exorbitant salaries with the professional teams they have chosen, the Euro Cup makes the players return to their home nation and play with their fellow countrymen. (This reminds me of Thanksgiving Homecoming American football games. Sniff, sniff.) But the best thing I like about the Euro 2016 is that for a few weeks, we don’t have to look at non-stop bicycling. Hardly anyone is talking about who’s in the lead for the Tour de France, which started a few days ago. It will stay that way – at least until the final Euro 2016 soccer game on Sunday evening. Allez les Bleus!