It’s very difficult to get rid of an addiction, especially one, whose removal momentarily takes the zing out of your life. That’s what the end of the 2016 European Championships in France has done to millions of football aficionados all over the world. Well, neutrals didn’t feel the loss of footballing entertaining with the end of the Copa America due to the presence of the EUROs. But, with the EUROs bidding adieu, the void is hard to fill. The wonderful summer of football entertainment starting with the finals of UEFA club competitions and continuing with the Copa America has finally come to an end with the EUROs concluding in Paris earlier this month with unlikely winners Portugal winning their first ever major title.
Usually, there’s less comparison between big tournaments of the same sport due to their distance from each other. In football, be it the World Cup, European Championships or the Copa America, the recurrence occurs in separate years, so that they don’t clash with each other and end up vying for the attention of television audiences’ worldwide. Well, one may argue the Euros will concern the Europeans more, as will the Copa America to the South Americans, while the World Cup will trump them both.
However, the major chunk of the television audiences of either tournaments comprises of the neutrals, from Asia and Africa – the continents having the major share of the world population, and not to forget Oceania. Hence, a clash of the tournaments will ensure diversion of multi-million dollar television revenue. For this reason, these tourneys rarely clashed.
Nevertheless, 2016 marked 100 years of the Copa America – the Centenario of the world’s oldest international continental football tournament. So, the tournament was staged in a neutral venue of the USA and for the second time ever it clashed with the European Championships (the first time being in 2004).
The music of the Copa opening and closing ceremonies were much more appealing and entertaining than the EURO ones. With due respect to David Guetta and Zara Larsson, I’ve to say I found their music and songs, especially the EURO theme composition quite mundane. Every time that insipid ‘ting, ting, ting…’ EURO theme music was played I just patiently waited for it to end. Whereas in the US, the catchy, melodious numbers of Columbian pop artist J. Balvin, the slick moves of Jason Derulo and lively music of Magic, in addition to the Latino crowd grooving to their compositions, made the Copa opener striking and refreshing. Eventually, I ended up becoming a fan of J. Balvin, especially of his Bobo song and interesting music video.
Likewise, the Latino flavour of Becky G and Pitbull also made the Copa America closing ceremony quite interesting. The Copa theme song ‘We Will Be Superstars,’ sung by the duo really caught my imagination. I found it quite engaging and memorable. Becky G’s stereophonic, high-pitched voice as she loops ‘we will be superstar, superstar you and I’ followed by the sprinkling of English phrases and splashes of rambling, yet, mellifluous Spanish lines every now and then by her and Pitbull made the song a joy to hear.
By the time the EUROs took off, the Copa was in full swing – filled with goals and upsets, so much so that the EUROs quite unappealing for a while – the games were drab and cagey, the crowd more formal, the atmosphere on the whole uninspiring, the flair of the Copa – of its distinctive crowd, music, locale, players and matches was clearly missing here – a flair I’d taken to and got used to. The Copa felt very much like the World Cup in Brazil – elegant, vivacious and exotic – the pre-match panning and zooming in on the locations on digital maps, followed by the interesting video clips of beautiful American cities, educating us, albeit briefly, about the tourist attractions and how life flowed there, and, the games, most of which were high-intensity affairs – all these and many other such details made the Copa Centenario a grand success. The oft-repeated talk of European based players being tired after a long and arduous season with their clubs and leagues, and this affecting their performances in EUROs were nowhere to be seen in the Copa, where Alexis Sanchez, Vidal, Mascherano, Higuaín, Messi and others shone at their best, making the Centenario tournament memorable for another centenary.
Meanwhile, in the EUROs not all of the big players justified their billing as the crème de la crème of world football – Zlatan Ibrahimović, Pogba, and the string of talented players from Belgium, Spain and England were below par. The only notable exceptions being the likes of the La Liga brigade of Pepe, Gareth Bale, Griezmann and Ronaldo, the latter waking up from slumber late in the tournament. Payet was one of the few EPL players to impress. The French stumbling in the final hurdle makes one think weather the French coach, Deschamps dropping the talented, experienced and recent Champions League winner Benzema for off-field reasons hurt them in the long run. Imagine what a lethal duo, Benzema and Griezmann would have made with Giroud giving back up.
Portugal’s win, though unexpected seemed to fulfil the pattern of the year where the favourites took a beating. If we look back at all the four major finals of the summer – the Europa League, Champions League, the Copa America and now the EUROs – all the favourites have gone on to lose contrary to expectations of the experts and the general public. Very few expected Seville to beat Liverpool, or the well-oiled machine of Atletico Madrid to lose to arch rivals Real. I firmly believed, fate had arranged for redemption of Argentina’s prestige by allowing them an opportunity to avenge last year’s Copa defeat to Chile, but then we know what happened (the image of the bearded Messi crying is unforgettable) and who’d have bet against the French not winning yet another major final against the Portuguese on homesoil, in front of their boisterous fans, as history was always with them the last couple of times they hosted major events of the World Cup and European Championships.
But, then, the pattern this year has been of the favourites biting the dust and that was reaffirmed in the EUROs.
About Author (Yagnya Valkya Misra): I’m a freelance writer with an avid passion for football. I’ve been submitting football articles to various publications over the years.
I’ve an MA in Creative Writing from Northumbria University at Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. I’ve also done an MA in Development Journalism & Electronic Communication from India. I’ve been in the field of journalism and creative writing for the last decade with several football articles published in some Indian sports websites.
Many of those football articles have been reproduced in Yahoo India web portal and other similar sites.