Monday, June 30, 2008

Euro 2008

I watched the final of the Euro 2008 soccer championship yesterday. I got interested as a result of watching the semi-final between Germany and Turkey last Wednesday in Barcelona. The final featured Germany and Spain. Germany is a long-time powerhouse of European football while Spain is a chronic underperformer, having not won a championship in 44 years despite a very strong domestic league and two internationally known teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

It was a good game. The flip side of what seems to an American as a game designed to have too little scoring is that most games are "close" most of the time. This game was 1-0 in favor of Spain from 33 minutes in until the end. Germany played really well for about 10-15 minutes after halftime, and had a couple of close shots on goal, but otherwise was outplayed by Spain throughout. One had the sense that Spain wanted the win more than Germany did.

The game was on ABC in the US, which surprised me a bit. I was expecting ESPN-2 or maybe even having to watch it in Spanish. I guess soccer really is getting more popular in the US.

I found myself wanting more commercial breaks - soccer in Europe is played continuously through each half with no stopping, something I think is not true of the US professional soccer league due to the demands of its television contract - so that I could get up and get something to drink or go to the bathroom. Of course, when I watch American football I find that I could do with fewer, though not zero, commerical breaks.

Towards the end of the match, the announcers, two Europeans hired by ESPN, started going on about how a Spanish win would be shared by everyone in Spain. Based on my experience in Barcelona on Thursday night during Spain's semi-final win over Russia 3-0, this is complete rubbish. A few stores closed for the game but basically traffic stayed the same and there was not very much celebration afterwards. The Catalans I talked to were mostly happy for their friends "in Spain" but not deeply moved by the win. I was told that newspaper coverage was entirely about the Catalan players on the Spanish team and not about the team as a whole.

I realized this morning that I actually quite enjoy watching soccer now - not as much as American football or basketball, but surely more than baseball (the great insomnia reliever) and hockey.