We’ve now seen half of the teams competing in this years tournament play their opening hands, and none of the games have yet failed to entertain. Already we have had it all; Red cards, controversy, penalties and penalty decisions, great goals and shocks – all of this has happened however under a blanket of cheap yellow cards and soft decisions, bringing into question what the sport has come to in terms of being a contact sport.
The other day a re-run of the 93/94 season was on TV, and I settled in to watch back over football I have only ever known through such re-runs. I noticed something quite remarkable. Challenges were flying in – which nowadays would instantly see a frantic referee searching for which pocket his red is in, as the commentator squirms away from watching the replay due to its brutality – with no problems, or even the smallest appeal for a free-kick from even the most faint-hearted of supporters occurring. Last night, while watching the Portugal-Germany clash I was reminded of this as I was outraged by the number of times the officials blew their whistle, or waved their flags, at challenges made in honest attempt for the ball.
The same again occurred in the opening fixture between Poland and Greece, with Papaststhopoulos receiving a red for two challenges barely, if at all, fitting a single yellow. At that moment all football fans, except perhaps those backing the Poles, felt a surge of disappointment and anguish as the man walked down the tunnel, ending his game. Following that decision, however, the game seemed to be filled with needless yellow cards and the referees whistle.
What has turned out to be one of the most exciting openings to a tournament for many years, football fans across Europe can be proud of the show currently on display. However we hope that the sound of the refs whistle doesn’t become to the Euros what the Vuvuzela did to the World Cup – a constant annoyance on the backdrop of what should be a fantastic sporting event. Should, however, we find the early tournament nerves settle and the game be allowed to flow, then, early signs suggest, we could be in for one of the best yet. Enjoy!