Stroke Bloke at Euro 2016

Some years ago, Mrs Stroke Bloke and I noticed that – not much like J. Alfred Prufrock – our relationship could be measured out in international soccer tournaments.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons, maaaan.”

Back in the summer of 2010, I was introducing my new American girlfriend to a Scottish pal in a Brooklyn bar as we watched (was it?) the USA v England in South Africa.

And as well as being beautiful and funny, she already understands the offside rule!

But as Scotland fail, yet again, to qualify for a major tournament at France 2016, how do I find a team to give me a rooting interest? Read on…

[Join the conversation at the Apoplexy Tiny Letter here.]

A few weeks before my stroke, we watched Euro 2012 Poland-Ukraine in Thailand. Because of the time difference, the games were on in the middle of the night, so we cosied up in a Bangkok hotel room with room service grilled cheese sandwiches and chips. It’s the best way to do it. Have a massive stroke, that is.

Falmer Stadium – where English soccer and The Ladyboys of Bangkok meet

After moving to Edinburgh, we spent much of the landmark summer of 2014 apart, as I took care of business in the States, but while Longsufferingreaderoftheblogpaul and I watched Tim Howard’s heroic performance for the US against Belgium in the World Cup in Brazil, Beth was living through the same game 3,000 miles away in Edinburgh.

As Euro 2016 kicked off last week, my charming wife pointed out that even with an expanded format, Scotland still couldn’t make it in, while Northern Ireland and little Iceland (pop: less than the City of Edinburgh) could.

We’re better off at home, right, Ally?

Like John Oliver, I’m sickened and appalled by the state of international football. But – like him – despite numerous promises to myself, I can’t tear myself away from international tournaments. Still, it’s more fun with some skin in the game. Right?

As a fan of The Kinks and cricket, and an avid Fantasy Football manager in the English Premiership subject to a national broadcaster that’s more likely to make an England game available north of the order than a Scotland game, you might think it would make sense for me to follow the English.

“I will love it if we beat them. Love it.”

But on the other hand, I’m an avid Fantasy Football manager in the English Premiership subject to a national broadcaster that’s more likely to make an England game available north of the order than a Scotland game, so that’s not really an option. Besides, the imperial tinge to the coverage of the English team and the attitude of many of their supporters doesn’t sit well with me.

So how to decide on a team to follow? Well, the bar we saw that USA-England game in was owned by a couple of great lads from Poland who were avid football fans. Brooklyn’s got some great Polish heritage, from the bars to the Warsaw concert venue at the Polish community centre in Greenpoint, to Jubilat Provisions in South Slope.

Little Poland in Greenpoint

It’s something of a similar story in Edinburgh. I read that more people in Scotland speak Polish than Gaelic, it’s easy to get Polish provisions, and there’s a statue to Wojtek the Polish soldier bear in Princes Street Gardens. So maybe I’ll go with Poland.

But then I took an online quiz in The Grauniad to see “what team I am”

I think you’ve misunderstood both me and Germany, The Grauniad

Is that the kind of lazy stuck-in-a-rut, stuck-in-the-past imperial mindset I’m thinking about? By all accounts, Germany’s game against Ukraine last night was the best game of the tournament so far, as the die Mannschaft continued their recent traditional entertaining, free-flowing fitba. And our two recent trips to Düsseldorf and Berlin have presented an endless stream of likeable people and fun and interesting things to do.

Or maybe I am just not having the sense of humor, yes?

And then there’s our other recent trip to the Republic of Ireland, and the lovely folks there, and the glorious countryside, the shared history, and the je ne sais quoi that comes to have the country pop up from time to time in some of my fiction.

I guess what I’m saying is, my vow to swear of international soccer tournaments is going to have to wait another couple of years. And maybe this Europe things isn’t so bad, Greece-baiting and TTIP aside. Enjoy the tournament, and don’t hate yourself too much for doing it.





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2 thoughts on “Stroke Bloke at Euro 2016

  1. Still supporting Spain in Europe, as I have been since the mid-90s, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I attended the classic ’94 Spain-Italy World Cup game in Boston (the Salinas miss, the late Baggio breakaway goal, the nasty elbow to Luis Enrique), and for whatever Quixotic reason, came away determined to follow the Spanish side. I thought they would forever be talented but unlucky underachievers, worthy of passionate support in spite of (or perhaps because of) their habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Then, one day in 2008, Fabregas scores a penalty against Italy that he should have missed (to fit the underachieving narrative), and everything changes. Now I want them to reclaim the Euro trophy that seems rightfully theirs (much like Sevilla in the Europa League), and to keep on winning, no matter how they do it. Okay, if they start playing like Germany pre-2006, or Italy from nearly any tournament I can remember, then I might change my mind. Or maybe not.

    Late breaking news: Spain 1-0 Czech Republic, on a late header from Pique. No wonder everybody except me and the Spanish dislike Spain these days. 🙂

    1. Ah, you were supporting Spain before supporting Spain was cool, eh? Speaking of measuring a life in major tourneys, I remember Spain being awesome in 2010 as my love for Mrs Stroke Bloke was blossoming, so they’ll always have a place in my heart for that. But as Rob Smyth put it in the run-up to that Czech Republic game, there is a sense that Spain got so deep in character for their Euro 2012 Art Project that they haven’t quite been able to get out. And then that 21-pass goal against Turkey happened as I contemplated my pint. Now, a Spain match is something alive with possibility again, and I feel something good is going to happen. Maybe?

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