European Soccer Championships

It’s an exciting time to be in Innsbruck: the town is hosting some games in the early rounds of the European soccer championships, and it would be impossible not to notice:

  • Large swaths of the downtown area have been gated in order to be able to control crowds.

  • There are a number of viewing areas with big screen TV’s, situated around the city, and of course many restaurants and bars have their own.

  • There are all kinds of flags and other junk for sale. The worst item are the plastic horns that are quite cheap and produce lots of noise well after the games are over. A very monotonous honk-honk noise, not singing or cheering or anything else nice. I have daydreams of doing something nasty to the purveyors of said horns, which I’ll leave to your imagination.

  • Interestingly, it appears that crowd control is not the sole province of the Austrian authorities: they have invited their colleagues from some of the other countries who will be playing in Innsbruck. We saw a couple of local policemen go by together with two Spanish policemen, and two Russians, big hats and all. The other day there were also large numbers of German police around town as well.

  • In a scene that I couldn’t really see in the US, a young woman who was clearly out with her friends for a bachelorette night got one of the Austrian cops to take a picture with her, wearing her veil, and she with his cap. Perhaps it had something to do with the glass of … something … that he had, that had evidently been donated by the wine and beer stand near where he was stationed.

  • Everyone has little Austrian flags attached to their cars, with a smattering of Turkish, Italian and German supporters as well.

  • The mood is pretty festive: out for our walk the other day, we came across a column of happy Croatians marching and singing and making merry, having witnessed their team defeat the Austrians. Of course, there would have been a lot more festivities had the Austrians managed to win, but I thought it was encouraging that the “other guys” could celebrate in the middle of town, with nothing untoward happening (at least that we say).

All in all, the atmosphere surrounding the event has been very entertaining, although I find the game itself, if not exactly boring, perhaps lacking in substance. It’s sort of like a middle school romance, with lots of talk surrounding it, quite a bit of activity and running hither and thither, but not much actual… well… “scoring”.

I suppose you could chalk my lack of appreciation up to my “Americanness”, but it’s probably more that for me, the one and only sport that I really care about is cycling.

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