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European Football Championship: UEFA, give us back the 3pm games!

European Football Championship: UEFA, give us back the 3pm games!
European Football Championship: UEFA, give us back the 3pm games!

Since Sunday, the European Championship has only been played at prime time, with no more afternoon broadcasts. Our reporter is overcome by a strange emptiness: what should he do now if not watch Georgia against the Czech Republic?

The half-life of human memory is sometimes very short. Three weeks ago I would have been happy to have a free afternoon, which I would certainly have used for… well, that’s the big question: for what? Had I been to the swimming pool, was the weather good enough? Had I written, held a conference, made a phone call? Had an ice cream? Unfortunately, now that the preliminary round is drawing to a close, I can’t even think of it. Because the 3pm matches of the European Championships were still on the schedule until Saturday, like a fixed date, which made the mornings more bearable and increased the anticipation of the evening.

3 p.m.: For me and many fans, this has quickly become the emotional vanishing point of every tournament day, that promising hour towards which all previous ones seemed to be leading.

Because that’s how it all started. And after that, we knew that it would continue.

No tactical testing, just spectacle

Of course, the decision to expand the European Championship from 16 to 24 teams and thus also allow third-placed teams to advance has been widely criticised, and rightly so in 2016 and 2021. Back then, there were a number of games that just plodded along, tension-free non-aggression pacts between limited teams that walled themselves in because even three draws could be enough to get them into the round of 16. As a spectator, you watched time killing itself.

It could have happened again. But it turned out completely differently.

What spectacles we were treated to in the afternoons!

Croatia against Albania, wild and unpredictable. Before that, Poland against the Netherlands, a festival of chances, exciting right up to the end. Slovakia against Ukraine, of course, with a fabulous goal that lifted the whole country up again. Finally, the tireless Czechs against brave Georgians, who you wanted to shout into the goal during their stoppage time counterattack.

Who wants to go to a meeting when they can watch two Balkan states storming each other without any tactical restraint? Who needs a swimming pool when they can bathe in the emotions released by Klaus Gjasula’s late equaliser?

Prime time? Not with me, UEFA!

But since Sunday, damn UEFA, games have only been played early or late in the evening, at – as they always like to say – prime time.

However, this explanation not only reflects a merciless misunderstanding of the facts, but also an ignorance of the peculiar rhythm that football fans fall into during a tournament, which is not based on the position of the sun, but on the next beer. Prime time – this also implies a subsequent devaluation of the 3 p.m. slot, for which there is no longer any reason after this preliminary round.

Almost all of these early games were symphonies of tension. Fabulous afternoons in sweltering heat or torrential rain, the weather as extreme as what we were able to marvel at on the pitch.

Albania 2:2

You could enjoy the afternoon games on the TV like a groundhopper or talent scout who, in the still wild east of Europe, after changing trains three times and taking a long bus ride, was supposed to discover something that had remained hidden to others until then. It was as if a door opened every day to a world that you didn’t even know you needed. Football escapism in the best sense of the word. The feeling of doing the right thing, even if it might look wrong, at least to the colleague in the office next door, the lawn-mowing neighbors or simply those who are less interested in football.

Anyone who doesn’t tune in at 3pm has never loved the European Championship

Anyone who watched the 3pm games embraced the European Championship in its entirety, not just the highlight matches scheduled for prime time. They also had an eye for the oddities of such a tournament, the stories behind the stories, the nameless people in the shadow of the stars.

Ramadani instead of Ronaldo, Gvelesiani instead of Griezmann, Karničnik instead of Kane.

For outsiders, the so-called little ones, who supposedly shouldn’t even exist anymore, but who still came running every afternoon in Hamburg, Leipzig and Berlin. In their faces the pride of being there at all, and in their feet the potential to become a surprise team. Because every tournament needs one of those.

In their place, there is now a strange emptiness that has to be filled somehow. Maybe, by God, with a conference, with real work. Maybe with an ice cream, Mamardashvili flavor. For my part, I googled where the nearest swimming pool is. I want to lie there and watch the highlights of Romania against Ukraine on my phone again.

Source: Stern

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