Unparalleled Passion: The Power of EURO 2016
It is not so often that a teenage boy jumps up and down in joy and relief. That same boy may also be yelling, or maybe even shrieking, “yes!” in elation. This thought may become more absurd if I tell you that this occurred shortly before 11 a.m on a Thursday.
Daniel Sturridge scored the winning goal for England in the 91st minute against Wales in their second match at the 2016 European Championship in France. After he did so, I was that teenage boy.
I can assure you that the scene in my apartment in New York was replicated in other apartments, houses, bars, and fan zones around the world. When the team you are supporting scores a go-ahead goal, the world seems to freeze. Then the madness begins.
After Sturridge scored, I could not keep the excitement to myself. I went to Snapchat to send my friends a video of me singing a chant heard among English supporters. I quickly found a GIF of Sturridge doing his famous dancing goal celebration and tweeted that alongside a selfie that I once took with him. I then retweeted different content and statistics regarding the match and its significance.
— Adam Lassner (@AdamLassner5) June 16, 2016
All of this may seem a bit insane, especially since I am American, but let me explain. Ever since I was younger, I had a strong connection with England and its national team. Like many others my age, David Beckham was an idol of mine growing up, and that had an influence on my selection of England as one of my favorite national teams. Since then, England has had a place in my heart and its kit has had a place in my closet.
Anyone who is a true supporter of a team, whether it be a club team or a nation in any sport, knows what it feels like when their side wins and loses. These supporters stand by their teams’ sides. Within stadiums, they often create the environment that any young athlete dreams of playing in.
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When I Googled “passion,” one definition that appeared was “strong and barely controllable emotion.” If that is the case, passion is synonymous with these supporters and the supporters that we have seen so far at the Euros.
The tournament began on June 10, and the final is on July 10. With the first week about to conclude, we have already witnessed the greatness of this passion and its downside. While the play on the field has been exciting and often unsettling, there has been a plethora of action off of the field in the stands and in the host cities’ streets.
On June 11, after England and Russia drew 1-1 in Marseille, there were altercations between English and Russian supporters. Russian fans stormed the English fans and attacked them. During the same game, there was supposedly racist and unruly behavior. This incident in the stadium was after a few days of violence which involved English, Russian, and French supporters and the riot police. While UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has made comments and warnings regarding the supporters and the nations whom they represent, this has left a bad imprint on the tournament for viewers and locals.
For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #EURO2016
I talked to a friend of mine who lives in Paris about what it is like to be there in a host city. He did mention the ill-behaved fans who he felt created an uneasy atmosphere that disturbed the natives and the tournament itself. He said that hosting the tournament briefly changes the lives of French natives. The negatives aside, my friend seemed to appreciate the atmosphere created by many of the other supporters who donned their nations’ shirt and colors, painted their faces, and gleefully sang their songs.
Among those jubilant supporters are the fans from Iceland. This is Iceland’s first ever appearance at the European Championship. The Icelandic team, who drew Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal 1-1 in their opening match, did not travel alone to France. Roughly 30,000 supporters from Iceland made the trip to France to support their team — a tenth of their population!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) June 14, 2016
The Icelandic supporters, whom definitely did not make the trek just to get the t-shirt, were in full voice when their nation faced Portugal, and some of their chanting left viewers “terrified.” Qualifying for the tournament was one accomplishment that Iceland already has achieved, but while they are at the Euros, their fans will continue to push the team along.
The enthusiastic supporters do not only show passion in the stadiums or on the streets in France but also do so on the streets of their own nations. In an opinion piece that I read regarding the Welsh’s passion for their soccer team, author Neil McEvoy described his experience at the fan zone in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff during the match against Slovakia:
As that [Gareth] Bale free-kick hit the back of the net the scenes were like nothing I’ve experienced before. The place absolutely erupted. People were jumping, flags were waving, the roar was deafening and some were on their knees in ecstasy. Of course, we were all soaked in beer too. It was a truly special moment.
McEvoy, understanding the reach of soccer and the European Championship, feels that Wales’ presence in this tournament can put them on the map.
The world’s sport is a truly powerful thing. It can bring individuals together behind their national team. It can become a platform for international rivalries to be played out on the field. While some supporters take the Euros’ platform to fight, others see it as a chance to celebrate and show their national pride. The positive passion around soccer can bring light to a country, as it has in France, even in times of darkness.
All supporters are bonded. Soccer is a language spoken across the world. I have used it to relate and talk to people in cities I have visited and to connect with others in New York. I even had I had the opportunity to have a long in-depth conversation with a gentleman from Sydney, Australia last night, who I had just met, about the Euros and my love for the England national team. While he may have been a bit surprised that an American like myself has the passion of an Englishmen for the country’s team, he would have been even more stunned at the actions of that teenage boy this morning, after Sturridge scored, jumping up and down in utter joy and relief.
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