Time to eat and sleep football

2012-06-11 09:47

By the time Carlos Velasco Carballo blew for kick-off between Poland and Greece on Friday night, I was well and truly gagging.

It had been a bitter, anguished two weeks of emptiness, punctuated, occasionally, by some musical relief.

Time had crawled, dragging its feet even more than the eThekwini Municipality is in taking action against its corrupt councillors and officials fingered by the Manase Commission.

I felt like a morning drinker waiting outside TOPS for the roller door to slide heavenwards at 9am on a Monday, quart empties clinking as the shakes grip hard.

It was that special – tender but scary – moment when relief beckons and respite from the savage beast demanding to be sated is at hand.

As games go, the opening fixture of Euro 2012 was never going to be a murder.

Greece come with a well-earned reputation for gritty, defensive anti-football, while Poland of recent generations has not shone, partially because most of its best players turn out for Germany.

There’s also something perpetually almost-ish about international football compared with the league game.

No matter how talented the national side is as individuals and no matter how sussed the coach and the importance of the tournament, they’ll never be as well-drilled, as Zenned out, as a team side that works together day in day out and plays competitive games every week.

But it was pretty decent football, live – no Irrational Disaster masquerading as National Broadcaster delayed-live nonsense here – 90 minutes of real, competitive game time and the beginning of a game fest.

There’s something all consuming about a big tournament like the Euros, the Nations Cup or the World Cup.

It’s not the tourists and overnight football fans, the suits and parasites living it up in the hospitality suites, it’s not the opening and closing ceremonies – Friday’s was refreshingly swift – dancers and fireworks.

It’s the wall-to-wall football, the top notch two-games-a-day stuff, with downtime peppered with pre-match analysis, post-match post-mortems. It’s a time to eat and sleep football, when little else exists.

This tournament is, for a working South African, exquisitely timed: game one at 6pm and game two kicking off at 8.45pm.

There’s no need to dodge work, fall sick, or be “between jobs’’ as I was for the 2010 World Cup.

It’s possible to do a – reasonably – honest day’s work and have one’s well-upholstered posterior on the couch or a barstool by 6pm with a little tweak to one’s working schedule.

It’s been a pretty cool display of footie. Russia are the team for me thus far. They’re fast, cohesive, competitive.

They can defend and are deadly on the attack. They let very little go to waste.

Other teams, like Spain, are more skilful, but they look a bit one-eyed without David Villa, an evil genius during the World Cup.

Italy have shown their intent, but the Russians look like they could be as murderous as their 2008 squad.

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