After lunch I promptly boarded a train headed for Nyon. I was headed to UEFA headquarters to interview one of their representatives who specializes in dealing with racism in European soccer.
I arrived in Nyon early and walked from the train station to his office. The walk was beautiful. Nyon sits on the shores of Lake Geneva about fifteen minutes north of the eponymous city. The day was unusually warm for the time of year and place, but a constant breeze off the lake intermittently cooled things off. And even here, in a city away from the sounds and crowds of the soccer stadiums that are playing host to the tournament, a fan zone and a large screen are set up for spectators. And then, as I neared UEFA headquarters, flags began to line the streets promoting the tournament and fair play and denouncing racism.
I walked into the lobby and was immediately approached by an attentive secretary. She confirmed my appointment, provided me with a security badge and accompanied me to their waiting room overlooking the lake.
But as amazing as the view was, it could not capture my attention. Sitting in glass cases all around me were the various trophies UEFA awards teams who win their organized events. I quickly rushed over to the Champion’s League trophy, recently awarded to Manchester United. The UEFA Cup was adjacent to it, and 2008 – FC Zenit Saint Petersburg was already etched into its base, amongst past champions.
Then, I noticed the cup that was the cause of all the commotion I had witnessed the past few days, the EURO Cup, the trophy that would be awarded to the winning team at the end of the tournament that had begun a few days ago. Who would lift the trophy at the end of the month in Vienna? I wondered.
Before I could move on to another trophy, however, the UEFA representative’s assistant arrived to escort me to a conference room. She brought me water and two folders filled with statements, advertisements, articles, transcripts, and a DVD containing UEFA’s new anti-racism ad campaign, which will be run during the upcoming Champion’s League games.
A few minutes later, the UEFA representative entered. I interviewed him for roughly one hour, covering their current and future policies on how to prevent racism and soccer, when the anti-racism division was created within UEFA and what steps against racism they are trying to get leagues in Europe to start making. It went smoothly, and I gained all the information I came to get and much more.
We then talked briefly about our favorite teams and players and which team we thought would win Euro 2008 (we narrowed it down to Spain or The Netherlands). He then gave me an anti-racism t-shirt, water bottle and captain’s armband.
I wished all my upcoming interviews would play out like this one. I love free stuff.
Back on the train, headed toward Geneva, I called my liaison to FURD to make sure everything was still a go for our interview in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, he claimed to be too busy to meet. He said he had a lot going on, et cetera, et cetera.
I went back to my hotel room and looked over the notes and material I had gained from my interview at UEFA earlier that day. What a gold mine, I thought. Too bad they don’t all play out like that.