VIEW FROM THE PRESSBOX: Hack’s hacked off. And he’s off now, returning home after five weeks on the road in France, where enthusiasm for Euro 2016 was less than ecstatic, just as the football was less than epic
The Eiffel Tower is closed. The skies are grey. There are red, white and blue wigs trampled on to the streets of Paris.
It is the morning after and France is waking up to a football failure on an English scale.
This was their Euro 96. Roared on by their home support, they really thought they would win it. But they ended up losing to this year’s equivalent of Greece.
Hell, Portugal didn’t even need Cristiano Ronaldo to beat them in the final. Swansea reject Eder, who could barely hit a cow’s arse with a banjo in the Premier League and now plays his club football in France, did fine all by himself thank you very much.
France didn’t deserve it anyway. Don’t believe the hype about this being a great team. It’s not. Don’t believe the hype about them unifying a nation, either. They didn’t. France remains just as divided today as it was when the tournament started, whatever Thierry “handball cheat” Henry might say.
The French have not been gripped by Euro fever. There were never many flags hanging from windows. No bars packed with people discussing Le Foot. No sign of any wave of enthusiasm sweeping a nation. 1998 was special. This was just another tournament.
It ended appropriately, too. Most of the final was as epically dull as the rest of the goal-shy competition. It ended up being a decent story (though try telling that to Hack when he’s rushing to file 800 words on deadline on an iPhone), but the most entertaining thing about it was the plague of moths who wouldn’t leave the players alone all game.
Let’s not pretend it has been a feast of football, or that France has somehow come together to heal its wounds after the Paris attacks. If that was true, they wouldn’t have been setting cars on fire and fighting with riot police before the game had even ended.
The idiots who rioted when they couldn’t get into the Fan Zone here may be a minority, but they still count. The Tower would not be shut today otherwise. Many will remember the amazing Welsh, Northern Irish and Icelandic fans who lit up Euro 2016. But what about the racist Russians who attacked the English in Marseille? Or the Croats who turned the stands in St Etienne for their game against the Czech Republic into a violent mosh pit?
This tournament will be remembered for hooliganism, ugly football and apathy as much as it will for moths, Ronaldo’s tears, Will Grigg’s on fire and that Icelandic HUUH!
So Hack is glad to be saying au revoir today. Au revoir to 2am finishes, terrible train journeys, rude waiters, awful media food, queues, mixed zone scrums and uncooperative footballers. Au revoir, too, though to steak and chips lunches, drinking beer every day, and to lots of new friends – to two fabulous hosts in Philippe and Gwenaelle, the affable chef in the Cafe de Mairie, Julie and to Lou Lopez, the most helpful volunteer in France, who made sure Hack got home safely last night.
Au revoir France. Hello home. Hack can’t wait.
- Hack’s previous columns from Euro 2016 can be found here. Their identity is a closely guarded secret. We asked a UEFA delegate, but they weren’t saying who Hack is, but they suggested that we follow this Twitter feed @pbsportswriter
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