Now that I’m free from exams a scarily high percentage of my time has been spent trying and failing to explain the constant spectacles created by football. Something I’ve always found surreal about the sport is how isolated those around me are from it – events that I view as seismic and definitive barely cross their radar, melting my brain in the process. These aborted attempts to explain my passion usually end up following the same few patterns – excerpts from the /r/Soccer headline list, that one Erling Haaland interview that sounds like anxiety-ridden third years flirting for the first time, and cliché walls of text based on the comfort of endless highlight shows. On some level it feels as if my obsession is based more around the humans behind the sport rather than the endless games they play – there’s something endlessly fascinating about the stories and cursed facts surrounding each fixture, even if I’ve retold them all countless times.
It could be argued that my excitement for Euro 2020 was fuelled more by this urge for spectacle than an appreciation of Kylian Mbappé. The actual football within this competition isn’t usually of the highest standard, with Portugal winning the tournament in 2016 after finishing third in their group and only winning one game within ninety minutes of play. This mixed quality creates the perfect conditions for shitehousery – with a team coached by a part-time dentist managing to knock out the Brits, Gareth Bale pretty much carrying his country, and random drunk Irish supporters fixing cars for the boys in green. The Euros are arguably so fascinating specifically because of how varied results end up being, pretty much anything can happen as long as it doesn’t make sense on paper. I guess the last five years have been spent just waiting for a return to these oddly consuming spectacles, a return to having new stories to tell. The tournament’s definitely delivered in this regard, just not in a positive way.