Why I’m rooting for France in Euro 2012
A lot of people don’t like France. Or maybe it’s French folks they dislike. And I can understand that a little. They can be culturally snooty sometimes; though so can pretty much every other nationality on earth. And from a soccer standpoint I can understand why people wouldn’t like the French national team seeing as two of the most infamous meltdowns in World Cup history were perpetrated by les Bleus. There was Zinedine Zidane’s head butt of Italy’s Marco Materazzi that may have cost France the World Cup title in 2006. Then there was the undetected hand-ball by Thierry Henry that unfairly sent France instead of Ireland to World Cup 2010 in South Africa. The team imploded in South Africa, with coach Raymond Domenech kicking Nicolas Anelka off the team and the rest of the squad refusing to practice at one point in protest.
Particularly after the World Cup 2010 incident, the French team gained the reputation (whether accurate or not) as selfish mega-stars that cared more about themselves than representing their country honorably. Since then, the French Football Federation wisely dumped strange Coach Domenech and hired Laurent Blanc, an alum from the World Cup ’98 winning French side. Blanc has successfully overhauled the French squad, giving new youngsters a chance while reincorporating the megastars. France has plenty of megastars by the way, including Benzema, Ribery, Nasri, Malouda, and Ben Arfa.
So why in the world would I root for France in the Euros this summer? It’s a personal connection. I lived in France for nine months when I was eleven-years-old. Nine months can make a big impression at any age, but especially when you’re eleven. I really liked soccer before we moved to France, but I really loved soccer within a couple weeks of living in France. It was very contagious. I was playing pick-up games with neighborhood kids the first day I was there! Couldn’t understand a word they were saying at that point, but soccer bridged the gaps. And the soccer never relented the whole time I was there.
Since I attended a French public school in Tours, France, I was naturally influenced by their player and team preferences, which of course included the French national team. Euro ’88 was my first European Championship experience. I was hooked. I ended up cheering on Holland because I liked Ruud Gullit and because France hadn’t qualified. The French weren’t too happy about that, particularly since they’d won the title in 1984. I’ve rooted for France ever since my time living there, with a couple of exceptions – if they’re playing the U.S. obviously, and at the 2002 World Cup I cheered for Senegal over France because I also lived in Senegal for five years. But that’s another story.
When it comes to the Euros, I love watching the tournament, but the fun is enhanced when you have a team to cheer on. France has their issues, but I’m sticking with them. Not because of particular players, but because when I watch them, I remember the faces of all the French classmates I ran with at school and on the playground, whose exuberance for les Bleus and football itself had an effect on me that has never quite faded.
(France plays their opening game of Euro 2012 against England on Monday, June 11, at 11:00 AM (Central) on ESPN)
Who will you root for in Euro 2012?
Thoughts on Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Man City and 0-0 draw with Tottenham
After the generally dismal season Chelsea fans have endured, the past couple weeks have been a very welcome respite. Just a month ago, a loss at Manchester City like the one this past Wednesday would’ve seriously irked Blues fans. But there is enough positive afterglow from the Champions League comeback against Napoli to outshine the disappointing loss at Manchester City.
This EPL season was a lost cause for Chelsea long ago. It’s all about Champions League survival now – advancing in the current tourney and qualifying for next season’s edition. It doesn’t render EPL games unimportant of course – a win Wednesday would’ve been very helpful, but yesterday’s clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge carried the most significance. Even interim Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo admitted a loss to Spurs might have put next season’s Champions League berth out of reach.
Chelsea and Tottenham played the whole match Saturday like they were afraid to lose. Mission accomplished as neither team scored. The goalless draw was more disappointing than the loss at Man City since no progress was made toward reducing the five point gap separating Spurs (in fourth place) and Blues (in fifth). It was a disheartening missed opportunity for Chelsea. Though there are eight league games remaining, it is a very tall order for Chelsea to overtake Tottenham. Failure to qualify for Champions League play next season would be a huge disappointment. It’s hard to imagine that competition without Chelsea! Still, there are eight games left. Chelsea must take care of business and hope Spurs sputter badly.
Meanwhile, there’s the little matter of Chelsea’s trip to Benfica Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal. Can’t wait for that one. It’s going to be a suspenseful April for Blues fans!
What do you think – will Chelsea earn a Champions League slot for next season?