Last night, Spain defeated Germany in the Euro 2008 final 1-0. Fernando Torres scored the winning goal in the 33rd minute, and that’s all it took.
Unfortunately, I was in the wrong city for any type of celebration. As the seconds ticked off the game clock and Spain captured their first major tournament victory since 1964, I was sitting in the middle of a biergarten in Berlin amidst a throng of dejected Germans. But before I get back to that, let me catch you up with what I’ve experienced since my last post.
Back to the action
My last post came from the very relaxing Hallstatt where I spent a relaxing two days away from the excitement and crowds of Euro 2008 and from my research project on racism in European soccer. However, even on my break, I could not escape my project fully. I discovered that racism in European soccer had even managed to affect the persons of that small town, a town so small that it didn’t even have a soccer team.
Now in Vienna to see the semifinal match between Spain and Russia, I kept my eyes open for any racial incidents that might occur. I was in a large and diverse city to attend a match between two teams and fan groups that had been accused of racial abuse before. If I had stumbled upon the effects of racism in soccer in Hallstatt, surely I would see them here as well.
The atmosphere in the city was terrific. I arrived many hours before the game so that I could take in the sights of the city, but everywhere I went, I could not escape a game atmosphere. Spanish and Russian fans had flooded the streets of Vienna, cheering and parading in marketplaces, along the Danube, and on crowded thoroughfares. They gave little notice to the angry motorists honking their horns at them to try to clear them out of the roads. They either assumed the honks were in support of their cause or they didn’t care.
The game was dominated by Spain, winning 3-0. It was an impressive performance, a good sign for Spain on their way to the finals.
I spent the day of the final between Germany and Spain in Berlin. The pre-game parties began around noon. Everywhere I went, German fans were out in force, trumpeting and cheering. Even the Brandenburg Tor was decked out in game day decorations.
Unfortunately, Spain ended up the winners. There was no celebration that night in Berlin. The German fans all just seemed to finish their drinks and walk home in silence.
Nonetheless, from my perspective, it was a fantastic game. And a great one to end a remarkable tournament.
I hadn’t seen any racially motivated verbal attacks on the rest of my journey. The tournament acted largely as a uniting rather than a dividing event. Although this is what I witnessed, I did read and hear about some incidents involving Western European fans against Turkish fans. But once Turkey was eliminated from the tournament things continued as if there was nothing at all wrong with the state of European soccer.
Although Euro 2008 was relatively event-free as far as racism was concerned, acting as if it is not there is not the proper way to treat it. European soccer has taken many positive steps in the right direction in combating racism, but many countries are still ignoring the problem completely. This cannot occur. For the problem to be correctly addressed it must be dealt with head-on.
Luis Aragones, Spain’s coach for Euro 2008, had been caught on camera during the World Cup calling Frenchman Thierry Henry a black monkey. Spain did not take any action against him and allowed him to remain as their coach. This lack of punishment is largely consistent in Europe. Racism is not seen as that big of an issue in many European nations. This needs to change.
Perhaps the lack of racial incidents present in Euro 2008 is a positive sign. But it’s still there below the surface. Combating racism in European soccer is a constant fight. Just because it can’t always be seen doesn’t mean it’s not there. Hopefully Europe will not forget that.