Euro Cup 2012 kicked off yesterday. For those of you who do not follow soccer (or are not swamped with it in Europe), it’s the international European tournament that happens every four years. It’s like the World Cup if you take out the rest of the world. I’ve been incredibly excited about it and have been counting down the days for the past month. It’s kind of a big deal. Because I had to do responsible adult things, I really only watched fifteen minutes of one of yesterday’s matches because it was playing at the sandwich shop I was eating lunch at. Now, however, I am currently writing to you while watching the Denmark-Netherlands game and plan to go out and cheer for Germany in a pub downtown.
The European Cup has a special place in my heart. Sure, I was in Italy when they won the 2006 World Cup, but it wasn’t until we were backpacking through Europe in 2008 that I finally got it. I don’t know what clicked. Perhaps there was something in the unspoken camaraderie we felt with a Dutch bartender in a bar in Amsterdam where we were the only other people cheering for Italy when they played Spain. Or, perhaps there was something infectious about being crammed into a packed subway car of ecstatic German fans in Berlin after Germany had beaten Turkey.
It’s not that we ever got particular close to the actual tournament. Astronomical hotel prices meant that the longest period we spent in Austria were the thirty minutes we had to wait to transfer trains between Slovenia and Italy. Our train did briefly stop in Vienna on the day of the final match between Germany and Spain. We were traveling from Munich to Budapest and in that time we watched as hundreds of excited German fans marched their way off the train carrying giant cartons of beer. Mia was a popular member of our party seeing as she developed her intense obsession with the German National Team on this trip.
We arrived in our hostel in Budapest shortly before the final match started. Being on more neutral grounds for the Spain v. Germany match-up meant that while there was a more even split in fan support, the crazy fever of our previous viewing experiences in Germany was sadly absent. Nevertheless, watching it in a park in the middle of Magaret Island with a number of locals and some other travelers made for a fantastic evening.
Which leads me to the other point of this post. One of the most interesting parts about traveling is getting a taste of cultures around the world. There are many ways to do this. For me, one way has been through soccer. Soccer is an international language. It’s a language so many people speak around the world. While I have yet to see a live game in Europe (Chris and I are planning for Russia 2018), watching it in local pubs and parks has colored my travel experiences. I’m not saying to fully embrace soccer when you travel. Don’t ignore it, but find a way to connect to the local culture while you’re there. It could be through food, theater, wine, or anything else. Just find something. Trust me, it’ll lead to a richer travel experience.
And for all you soccer fans out there, enjoy Euro 2012! I’m rooting for Italy and Germany. What about you?
I spent a large part of my evening assembling my Euro Cup Fantasy Team. It’s an exhausting process. If my MLS experience was any indication, I’m sure that between now and June 8th, I am going to be changing this lineup as much as I possibly can when I still have unlimited transfers. We’ll see. But with this around the corner and the MLS season in full swing, I’m slowly starting to learn all of the games this fantasy sports business does with your head.
For a large part of my life, I’ve had a serious aversion to all things sports. Being half-Italian, soccer has always kind of been in my blood, but it wasn’t something I followed seriously until after World Cup 2006. Nor was it something I was at all fanatical about until the last few years. Something changed in the last few years and while I have no desire to turn to American football or any other similar sport, I now understand the painfully delightful thrill of being a sports fan.
So, I had a fun post planned for this week. We attended a season ticket holder pre-season event for the San Jose Earthquakes to kick off the upcoming MLS season. Hung out and got to take pictures with a lot of players from the team. It was generally a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera with me to San Jose this weekend, so it means we will be without a long picture-filled post this week.
In any case, the new season starts tomorrow and I am excited. From what I’ve heard, the Quakes have been in good form during the pre-season. If their scrimmage against Chivas last week is any indication of what’s in store, then we’ve got an exciting season to look forward to.
I’m also excited because I get to put my fantasy team(s) to the test. We’ve all been watching a lot of The League recently, so we’ve been inspired to go all out for our own fantasy league. I keep changing my lineup, so I hope that whatever I’ve ended up with will do okay. We’ll see.