Confessions of a Clueless Football Viewer, Part 3

A few years ago, and I can’t remember whether it was the Euro or World Cup, the German national team suddenly caught my eye. Something just clicked. Alongside a few more seasoned star players like Bastian Schweinsteiger (nothing can beat him) or Lukas Podolski (that impish grin) a new line-up of talented footballers, each already boasting his own successful career, was making their mark for Germany. The other intriguing point was that this new team included players with international roots who all worked hard and worked well, driven by the obvious iron-willed discipline of national trainer Joachim Löw. The diversity of the team was actively stressed by Germany, and I must say I am convinced. Modern, fresh, talented and almost always impressive whenever they entered the pitch, this was the team that made me realize clueless viewing didn’t exclude passionate viewing.

But all these feelings paled in comparison to what I experienced when I saw Manuel Neuer, Germany’s keeper, make his first save. Sure, the team is great, and it’s exciting to see them in action. But Manuel Neuer… well, let’s simply say I just can’t even.

And so this past Sunday arrived, with Germany playing its first Euro 2016 match against Ukraine. There he was, my hero, looking fresh as a daisy and clearly raring to go, his new appointment as team captain almost visibly bouncing of his still clean uniform. Within minutes his razor-sharp reflexes were demonstrated as he made a breath-taking, clean-cut save for Germany, and I could hear not only the German supporters in the stadium, but also the whole internet going wild. “A world-class act!” the German commentator was practically shouting. Let’s just watch this again, and again.

He can reach anything, jump anywhere and if we have him, everything will be alright, because he just wants to play.

And not to forget Jerome Boateng’s incredible defence (because no keeper is an island, at least not forever). If the internet was screaming after Neuer’s first save, it was in uncontrollable hysterics after this one.

If my hero did need some help, it couldn’t have been done any other way than how Jerome Boateng did it. World-class deserves world-class in return. And maybe Neuer would have made it on his own, but hey, what are teammates for?

Last, but not least, of the many truly cool moments this clueless viewer was impressed by along with everyone else wathcing, two words: Bastian Schweinsteiger. The midfielder replaced Mario Götze and did what the latter could not in a matter of minutes.

A special triumph in view of his injuries and uncertainty surrounding his participation in the Euro 2016.

While still clueless, I’m pretty sure this is what good football looks like.

 

 

 

Confessions of a Clueless Football Viewer, Part 2

This football, I like it, another! To rephrase Thor a little bit.

England and Russia played against each other on Saturday and having Russian roots I thought, hey, why not. No clue about the Russian national football team, no prior research, not even a glimmer of a name, and my knowledge level about England’s team wasn’t much better – the only player I recognized was Wayne Rooney, and all I could come up with additionally was the oft-repeated comparison on his facial similarity with a certain beloved animated character. Oh, well, I never said I could do much.

Thus with basically an absense of feelings except curiousity on how this whole game would go I sat down to watch the match taking place in Marseille. I did predict the colours of the Russian team’s uniform’s correctly. Yay. Of course they were going to be red, vot do you mean.

I was just thinking this match was somewhat boring beyond the fact that my cluelessness already glaringly signifies the possibility of boredom, when suddenly England’s Eric Dier scored the first goal. Yes, goals are always sudden, that’s the thing that sets them apart, I know. The goal was half the fun, though, ultimately leading to the best part of the whole game as a screaming bunch of running players went nuts and failed to brake around this poor photographer.

He took it well, though. But Russia was not to be completely outdone, making jaws drop all over the stadium as they scored a (sudden) goal of their own during the three minutes after play. The look on Vasili Berezutski’s face as he demonstrated the usual victorious displays of emotion following his hit can only be described as “I AM BEAR.”

Despite the 1:1 tie, an amusing little summary of what is possibly one of the baselines of each national mentality emerges: England was “dejected”, according to multiple headlines in the media, while Russia acted like a winner.

It was impossible to ignore the staggering amount of violence taking place in the streets of Marseille as English and Russian football hooligans attacked each other in a seemingly endless frenzy of determined aggression. With widespread ugly incidents also taking place right in the stands of the stadium after the match ended, media, fans and locals alike are appalled. The acceleration level is dizzying and it is once again horrifying to see a sports environment or occasion abused purely for the purpose of destruction.

With the security concerns this year’s Euro brings, it is especially sad, and absolutely disgusting, to see this senseless violence happening, and one is particularly sorry for real fans who would never commit such a crime, not to mention the already overstretched law enforcement involved with keeping match locations safe and locals who must feel as if they are suddenly under siege in their own city.

 

Confessions of a Clueless Football Viewer, Part 1

The UEFA Euro 2016 has begun and after (somewhat unexpectedly) viewing a few of these in recent years, I can once again predict some of the things that are going to happen in the coming four weeks.

I will watch a few games and surprise myself anew that I actually do this, because if ever there was a person well versed in one-dimensional, non-technical sports viewing, it’s me. Fan accessories in the colours of the German flag, from wigs to flags to sunglasses to face paint, will spill from most of the supermarkets and drugstores one passes in town, and I will remember the paint stick a colleague made me throw away after a news report about a bad batch being produced.

Most of us will watch the matches with Germany, though we might forego Hamburg’s largest public viewing spot at the Heiligengeistfeld with its 50,000 football fans.

I will not be able to comment on any technical parts of the matches and keep silent as the tangle of both English and German football terms (Abseits! Torschuss!) becomes ever more confusing in my head.

It’s all good.

I found myself watching the opening match between France and Romania of my own accord, partly also because of the game taking place in the Saint-Denis district of Paris, with sad memories of the November 2015 terrorist attacks and subsequent raids in the area being expanded by current security concerns. There is no light-hearted viewing this year, as clueless as I may be sports-wise. But there is an ongoing wish to enjoy what this championship is supposed to be about – seeing the best at their game, international sportsmanship and excitement about a big event being followed all over Europe.

France won against Romania 2:1, with the host country’s team possibly being surprised by the agility of their opponent. With my notorious ability to get teams mixed up I was thankful the French players were wearing blue and the Romanian ones yellow. I always think while I watch and as my attention inevitably starts to wander that so many people are seeing so much more in the game than I am, that other viewers have football layers and I don’t, but this does nothing to dampen my enjoyment, or, better said, amusement.

But here’s a question. After seeing France’s Olivier Giroud in a better close-up after he scored the team’s first goal against Romania (kudos), I do have to wonder: isn’t a full beard even more uncomfortable during a match than long hair? Unless it absorbs all the sweat pouring down the footballer’s face?

giroudIs the hipster making his way in to football? I can just imagine the look a more experienced viewer would give me, a mixture of incredulity and mild disgust on his face, as he would say to me, but nicely, being a friend, “I wasn’t looking at his beard, I was watching him score the goal.”

And is it just me, or are there way more tattoo sleeves visible among players? Not that anyone can really beat Germany’s Marco Reus tattoing his own name and birth year on his arm. That’s the way!

I really do think I come up with queries that hardly anyone would consider otherwise.

More Beauty and the Beast

The French movie directed by Christophe Gans and released in 2014, that is. I remember the Disney animated classic practically by heart, and yes, of course I will watch it again, and again, and again. This version grabbed my curiousity and it coincided nicely with the reignited enthuasiasm for all things Beauty and all things Beast after the teaser trailer for the upcoming Disney live-action film came out.

So, first thing’s first, it’s very different from the Disney interpretation, as it should be. While the story is scary enough, touching on plenty of serious topics if you stop to think about it, this movie was still darker and sometimes gloomier than I expected. There are, of course, familiar sights – an overgrown, dank, forgotten castle. A sense of impending menace before we really know who or what lives there, which transfers from Belle.

It was much harder to relate to the Beast in this adaptation, and however hard I tried to tell myself he was “real”, with “flaws”, the character had some very unattractive qualities indeed, not to mention a very serious sin on his hands. I was constantly scared he would tear Belle to bits, even when she started falling for him. And that’s the crucial point of dissatisfaction with the movie for me, unfortunately. How Belle starts to open her heart to the Beast skipped my understanding. One moment she is resisting his attentions, even while steadfastly accepting her fate, the next all she wants is to remain with him forever, it is her “only wish”. OK, so he did redeem himself by saving her life, and he doesn’t hide who he is from her. Love is all-powerful etc etc.

Nope, still can’t convince myself.

But the cinematography and costumes are stunning. While Belle’s dresses are somewhat too opulent for all that running around she does, the design is amazing.

There are still many ways to tell stories, including well-known and long-established fairy tales, which is heartening and inspiring. The enduring fascination with this particular genre seems to be showing itself in a myriad of new interpretations in entertainment and culture, and I am constantly watching to see what else will come, how characters we have known forever will find their way in to creative projects.