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Euro 2024: How to get through the tournament as a football ignoramus

Euro 2024: How to get through the tournament as a football ignoramus

Our author suffers from a lack of football empathy. In times of big tournaments like the Euro 2024, this can be very lonely. But there are a few tricks to counteract this.

Recently we had football for dessert. We were invited to dinner at a friend’s house. The host said that we could watch football after the barbecue.

I was surprised. Football had never played a role in our other meetings. The friend knew that neither my partner nor I had a particular affinity for it. So it had to be a special event that was taking place that evening.

I googled it: it was the Champions League final. I had to google again to see which teams were playing against each other. That says it all about my relationship with this sport.

I never understood the principle of football. In my family, sport in general did not play a big role, and this particular sport certainly did not. Nevertheless, it kept forcing its way into my life. In 1987, a friend’s parents took me to Munich and decided on a whim to go to a Bayern Munich game with us. It was Dieter Hoeneß’s farewell game. The only thing I found interesting was the story that he once continued playing despite having a gaping head wound.

The star with the mullet hairstyle

When I moved to a new high school, there was a boy in the year above me with a mullet who had an aura of importance about him. His name was Oliver Kahn. I found out that he was already a star at Karlsruher SC. I never exchanged a word with him, but I soon realized that you could impress friends and acquaintances outside of school by casually mentioning that you went to school with Oliver Kahn.

But I still couldn’t find any connection to the passion itself. On the contrary: although as a Christian I have a lot of understanding for spiritual inclinations, I could never understand how 22 men and a football could send so many people into quasi-religious ecstasy. Worse still: It leaves me completely cold, as if the corresponding synaptic connections and the relevant emotional center were never developed.

My biggest problem, however, is that the lack of football empathy can make you very lonely. This is especially true during the high masses of football, World and European Championships or the Champions League. During these times, I become a stranger in my own country.

An entire nation then falls into a frenzy. The supermarkets flood their shelves with special football offers, no mustard without the European Championship logo. Among colleagues, prediction games are organized, the outcome of the last game is analyzed. Among friends, the only thing you can arrange to meet up for days is for public viewing or private barbecue TV evenings.

Of course, I could hide behind the habitus of intellectual distance and go to museums, the theater or the cinema alone these days.

But I feel like a pariah. I see the nervousness, the pain of defeat, the joy of victory. The many little superstitious rituals with which friends believe they can influence the course of a game. Always wearing a certain T-shirt! Not speaking over the national anthem! Never changing the seating arrangement! Always consuming the same type of beer and chips!

And I’m jealous that I don’t feel the same, not even the same.

EM 2024: The fear of missing out

And then there is the feeling of FOMO. This is the “fear of missing out”, the fear of missing out on something, football edition, so to speak. It is not unjustified. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, a small miracle happened. Suddenly the streets and cars were covered in German flags, locals and guests celebrated together. This phenomenon was called the “summer fairytale” and fundamentally changed the Germans’ relationship to patriotism. What previously often sounded like nationalistic aggression unexpectedly took on a new, peaceful lightness.

Anyone who has not experienced this cannot comment. Perhaps they have not even fully understood Germany.

I definitely don’t want that. So I resort to mimicry. I pretend. I decorate my car with German flags, get invited to football barbecues and wear black, red and gold garlands at public viewing events. I take part in prediction games (but not without first secretly asking my sports-loving friend for his expertise) and try to overhear comments during the games (“Fülle holds the ball better up front than Havertz, he should have come earlier”), which I can repeat as my own assessment the next day in the office.

And because the average football fan also likes to remember historical moments, I read up on them a bit. So that I can also add in what happened back then with Maradona and the Hand of God or how impressed I was when Lars Ricken, who had just come on as a substitute, lobbed the ball to victory for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final in 1997 with his first touch of the ball.

Lonely at the grill

Of course, close friends see through the disguise immediately. But the good thing is: real fans are so emotionally roughened during major football events that they don’t mind being deceived. Because it is unthinkable for them that someone doesn’t share their feelings, they are prepared to accept such expressions without question.

They are also grateful if you can stand in for them at the grill while they have to watch important scenes.

So if you see someone standing alone at the grill during the European Championships, raving about the miracle of Wembley and then asking you to explain again why there are now nine minutes of extra time, be forgiving. It could be a disguised football ignoramus like me.

Source: Stern

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