Sunday, 1 June 2008

Come on England!

Euro 2008 is but six days away, and the excitement is building here.

Well, to be honest, working in an office at the end of Bahnhofstrasse near the lake in Zurich three days a week and then whizzing back by train every evening through Basle means that I haven't been in downtown Basle for a good while; apart from in Mr Pickwick's Pub on Steinenvorstadt last Thursday night!

If I had, I would have noticed the big screens being erected on both sides of the Mittlere Brücke as well as the construction of temporary seating on the Kleinbasel banks of the river on both sides of the bridge. I would also have noticed this above me had I been walking on the main shopping street, Freie Strasse. It's part of a project by some bloke called Littmann, who had the idea of covering ("over-hanging") parts of the Basle Euro 2008 "fan boulevard" with fabric sheets showing arty murals so that they look like the sky above if you squint your eyes. Or something. Hence the name Stadthimmel. It sounds impressive, although the sheets which I saw above Steinenvorstadt on Thursday night were rather sparse and therefore rather underwhelming. They just looked like random rain shelters. I think the view along Freie Strasse and other parts of town will be better though.

As for the footy itself, well, I'd be hard pushed to pick a winner. Germany are rightly one of the favourites. However, from what I saw of them yesterday vs. Serbia (2-1 to Germany despite Nemanja Vidic's sturdy enforcing), their defence looks surprisingly fallible. Metzelder has been crocked most of last season and seems to be struggling to resume normal service in his double-act with Per Mertesacker in the centre. Ballack is in the form of his life though. You can see he's improved an added notch in all aspects of the game since joining Chelsea from Bayern.

In general, I would say the enthusiasm here in Germany for Euro 2008 is similar to the hype in England before the 1998 World Cup. Back then, football auf der Insel had become "trendy" for the first ever time following the euphoria that surrounded the England team at Euro 96; until Stefan Kuntz and co. won as usual. The 2006 World Cup in Germany was comparable in that it also involved a host nation suddenly realising that their team was actually quite good after several years of playing crap. The only difference back then is that we had Baddiel & Skinner and they had, ahem, Xavier Naidoo.

Now we also have a situation here in Germany where Fussball isn't just the Opium des Volks (we knew that already) but also respectable in all strata of society. What's more, we now have the phenomenon of public viewing. Sorry, Public Viewing.

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