I have something of a love - hate relationship with the beautiful game.
On the one hand, it's pure kinetic theatre. A massively complex 4 dimensional thing. You can't deny the drama of it. Few things can get me on the edge of my seat the way a hard fought match can.
It's pretty much the world game, and in most parts of the world, it's very much the working person's game. Someone once described massive football crowds as "The Labour Party at prayer".
But I also find the increasing corporatisation of it depressing. It's been the vehicle that allowed Murdoch to make the money he needed to buy his empire. It's seen the top stars earn £100,000 a week. I don't care how good you are at kicking a ball. There's no more justification for paying footballers that kind of money than there is anyone else.
Sounds churlish I suppose but there you go.
Also, the nationalism and jingoism (and far right politics) that attaches itself to the game at a national level (not just in England) makes me very uncomfortable.
That said, I have to admit, I'm really enjoying the Euro 2012 tournament. And enjoying supporting England too. I'm enjoying the tournament because there's seldom been a dull match. Almost every game has been played with passion, and it shows.
Years ago, I was up very late getting stoned with a mate, and watching South American football on the telly. We had no currency in either of the teams involved, yet the match was excellent. We were enthralled. Then, after that had finished, it was followed by the US football league. Rudi Voller was playing for one of the sides I seem to remember.
Dear reader, the match was unwatchable. Although the players undoubtedly had skill, it was sterile, and passionless. A dry wank of a match.
Anyway, thoughts on this tournament...
Probably the biggest disappointment were Holland. They never gelled as a team. Watching players like Arjun Robben descent to petulance was pretty pitiful. Did they learn nothing from the World Cup Final? They ended up so much less than the sum of their parts.
The worst team was probably the Republic of Ireland, although being up against Spain, Italy and Croatia can't have helped their cause. Perhaps if they'd have been in a different group, I'd be posting something else here, but despite the passion of both players, and supporters, they seemed out of their depth.
England, under Roy Hodgeson, are a tight, disciplined unit. Their matches have been interesting rather than stylish. The England - France match was probably the most boring match for a neutral of all the matches so far. I enjoyed it personally, but then I like 5 day test matches too :o)
For once, the media expectations were more muted going into the tournament, and that seems to have helped too.
So who will win? I rate England as the 4th best team left in the tournament, behind Spain, Germany and Portugal. So I suppose they will be losing semi-finalists. The final will be between Spain and Germany, and could potentially be a classic.
We'll see. So far my attemps at predicting the outcome of the matches has been comically bad.
driving lessons in Wallasey?