This time twenty years ago we were on our honeymoon in Italy. As luck would have it, our trip coincided with Euro 96. This meant that we spent our evenings watching football on the television screens which were inevitably given pride of place in every restaurant we ate in. Italy crashed out of the tournament spectacularly in the early stages. It was certainly interesting to watch grown men hurling themselves to the restaurant floor in despair at the end of Italy’s final game.
There is definitely an added dimension to watching a major international football tournament whilst on holiday, particularly if you are in a football mad country. As well as Euro 96, we have had the pleasure of watching the World Cup in Spain and the Copa America in Argentina. Obviously, you are supposed to be on holiday so why would you end up glued to a television screen every night? On the other hand, what could be more natural than acting as the locals do? You could call it immersing yourself in the local culture. If you are in the right country it can be very hard anyway to avoid television screens if you want to go out at night.
Where is the most football crazy country we have visited? It has to be Argentina. Even ignoring major tournaments, everywhere you go in the country there is a television on somewhere showing football from somewhere in the world. It truly is their national religion. Every bus and every taxi is festooned with pennants or stickers proclaiming which team the driver supports. It is hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm. These days even the Pope is a football fanatic (he supports San Lorenzo).
Here at Saddle Mountain Hostel we are gearing up for Euro 2016. Luckily we have a large residents’ lounge with a big screen TV. We have just decorated the room with the flags of the participating teams. All we need now is for the supporters to turn up. We will be keeping count of how many of the 24 nationalities we have visiting during the course of the tournament. We will let you know the tally on Facebook.
What is our team? For Greg, there’s always Italy, particularly as Scotland are not taking part this year! Meanwhile, Helen has conflicted loyalties as someone born and brought up in London to Irish parents and who loves Italy. It means that she will have a keen interest in three teams, hedging her bets that one of them wins the tournament!
Will England do any better than in 1996 when, apparently, football was coming home? We will have to see.