Euro 2012: Looking Back on an Exciting Time

Jul 4, 2012 by

Euro 2012: Looking Back on an Exciting Time

It was a warm, beautiful summer evening last week in northern Germany, as soccer fans gathered in public viewing spots across the country to watch the match between the German and Italian national teams. Nearby booths overflowed with French fries, sausages and beer – the traditional choice of food and drink for watching a game. Laughter filled the air as expectant fans made their way along, many of them wrapped in German flags and sporting wigs in Germany’s national colours. Small children surveyed the crowd from their fathers’ shoulders. I myself happened to be there, with black, red and yellow stripes painted on my cheeks, while my friends were dripping with lei-style necklaces in the same colours.

The air was thick with anticipation. Everyone was expecting something spectacular from the “German 11”. After all, as many soccer fans and experts said, it was one of the best teams in the history of German soccer. “Jogi’s boys” is the affectionate term German fans use. National trainer Joachim Loew is just as famous as the team itself. On the day of the match, the streets were full of girls in t-shirts that said “I am Jogi’s 12th player”. The night did not end happily for the German team, however, with Italy winning 2:1. And with that, Germany was out of the running for the title.

Soccer, as exemplified once again during the Euro Cup 2012, has the ability to unite and  divide people of all ages, nationalities and dispositions. According to statistics on the number of spectators at various World Cups, for example, a total of more than three million viewers attended the live matches during the 2010 Cup in South Africa. It never fails to amaze me just what kind of emotional responses and behaviour the games produce. My personal relationship with the sport has always been close to that of a fish with a bicycle. I don’t follow it, my knowledge of related sports terms is woefully neglected, and if I tried to join in any discussions, people would either stare or laugh. I could be the cover illustration for “Soccer for Dummies”.

But there’s an exception: every few years a big event like the World Cup or the Euro takes place, and suddenly I find myself surfing on the national or even world-wide wave of soccer fandom. Even with my limited understanding, I am as excited as anyone, and I really do want my team to win. I also have sentimental reasons for watching – it reminds me of the first World Cup I watched with my dad. It’s refreshing to root for something that, for a change, doesn’t directly have to do with politics, religion, health or finance. Events like the European Cup certainly provide some much-needed escapism, besides just the opportunity to watch a sport beautifully played.

OK, who am I kidding? Of course Euro 2012 had plenty to do with politics and economics. Who couldn’t think of the state of things in Greece and Germany’s suggestions on stabilizing the Euro, as the two countries played against each other? And will Spain’s economy experience a boost now that they won the European Cup? What did hosting the Cup mean to the Ukraine and Poland?

So of course it wasn’t only about the sport, there are so many other aspects associated with the event that were interesting to observe. From German attempts to make various poor animals across the country take the place of the deceased Paul the Octopus, to… a deaf woman in Germany twittering the national team’s and their trainer’s remarks during matches.

Now this is something that I always burn to know. What do they say to each other, and can they hear themselves at all, considering noise levels during the match? What does Joachim Loew say when he explodes with emotion over a missed chance or a scored goal? Julia Probst, a.k.a, @EinAugenschmaus (a treat to the eye) on Twitter, fulfilled many a fan’s dream of getting just a bit closer to Jogi’s boys. The young woman has been deaf all her life and is proficient in lip-reading. As she told the international edition of Spiegel Online, “I hold my BlackBerry primed and ready, and as soon as I see something, I start typing.  I only tweet when I’m sure that I’m correct. When I understand everything immediately, then I’m certain of it.” She relied on camera close-ups to be sure, and also preferred to watch matches where Germany played in her home, as the disruption on a public viewing spot would be too great.

Some of the juicier comments made by Joachim Loew? “Man, Thomas! You gave that away!” posted Julia Probst after Loew screamed at right winger Thomas Mueller, following what was a bad pass. To the delight of more than 7,700 followers, she tweeted within seconds as the manager of the German team cursed mildly or shrieked, “Come on, Lukas” to left winger Lukas Podolski. Any remark, however short or trivial, was enthusiastically followed by fans.

Julia Probst has been tweeting about soccer since 2009. She became especially visible after covering what Joachim Loew and the German national team said during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, also giving a touching insight into motivational speeches from the team players. Aside from providing a lot of enjoyment for soccer fans and an innovative approach to reporting on interaction on the pitch, Julia Probst has drawn significant attention to campaigning for disability rights. ABC News placed her among the 10 most influential people on Twitter – she is the only German on that list. According to Spiegel Online, her efforts have already brought about changes – German Chancellor Angela Merkel includes subtitles in her video podcasts.

I’m eager to read what @EinAugenschmaus will tweet during the World Cup in two years. The last few weeks watching the European Cup have been filled with a variety of emotions that I am still surprised I experienced in connection with a sport. Meanwhile, my war paint in the German colours was quietly packed away. Until next time…

Image Note: Pallo_valmiina.jpg / Christopher Bruno/ Wikimedia CC/ Some rights reserved

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