Euro 2008: a pitch


Netherlands-Russia quarter final: best game of Euro 2008 so far. Really tremendous: action packed rather than “incident”-packed (although when the ref gave Kolodin his second yellow card and then reversed the decision before sending him off seemed – to me, anyway – pretty unique), and neither side was relentlessly dominant throughout, leaving the final score up in the air, and with plenty of attacking and defending from both ends. When Van Nistelrooy equalised in the 86th minute (and by the way, does any team have a more ungainly, unromantic set of surnames than the Dutch?), it could have gone either way, with both teams missing often spectacular goals throughout. Russia had the edge and the reckless sense of adventure and despite a diet of potatoes kept the energy levels up throughout extra time. Thank God it didn’t go to penalties, which reduces 120 minutes of human endeavour to a foot lottery. Arshavin (which is funny if you read it as “Arse-shaving”) roundly deserved to be the player who drew a line under his team’s victory in the 116th minute. How old is he? About 12? I can’t believe he’s shavin’ yet. Now we’re supposedly all getting bored with Ronaldo’s petulance (on which a really interesting column by Daniel Taylor here), perhaps this young Russian will be the next international mascot. I’m not informed enough to know if he plays for the Premiership yet or not, as the Guardian racistly* decided not to publish their usual Guide to proceedings this year, with all the info on all the players for part-timers like me, and which I always keep by my side throughout World Cups and Euros. I expect he will be snapped up by Chelsea or Manchester United soon, and the time I next see him play, in two years’ time, he’ll be an insufferable brat too.

So, my big worry: the pitch at St Jakob-Park in Basel. I know it was returfed because it got waterlogged, but it looks terrible. The usually graceful aerial shots in the TV coverage are rendered laughable with the different shades of green and brown patchworked together. It seems to play OK underfoot, but surely aesthetics are far more important in this media-saturated age! I can’t help but think of Hulk Tetris. Do they normally stick a pitch back together in this fashion, mid-championship?

*A joke. I am way too much of a liberal goody two-shoes to want to devalue a useful term like “racism”, I promise.


16 thoughts on “Euro 2008: a pitch

  1. The pitch did look a state, but it was purely due to the relaying following the heavy rain during the Switzerland/Turkey game earlier in the championship, as you state.This is a pretty unique thing, I can’t remember a pitch being relayed during a major tournament before, and I gather it cost UEFA a fair big of cash to relay it in quickly, so no games were affected by it.On the game itself, I thought the Russians played really well, and the Dutch couldn’t keep up the high standards they’d set themselves in the group stage.I hope Spain beat Italy today, although I fear that the Italians may go all the way to win the final, without playing especially well…

  2. Alternatively Arshavin could be “Arse Haven”. Imagine the sponsorship opportunities; pile ointment, a new comfy chair from Ikea, Brighton’s newest nightspot – the list is, er, quite limited.As for the Dutch surnames, I used to find the Romanian names pretty impenetrable – all those “escues”, yet not a single Kafkaescue.

  3. Come on Andrew, was the Guardian’s decision not to publish a guide really “racist”? It kind of trivialises the word to use it in such a context.Their daily podcasts from the tournament have been very amusing, by the way, and are worth a listen.John

  4. It was another great game (in terms of drama) in what has been a splendid tournament. Now we’ve reached the stage at which England would have been sent packing anyway, I really can sit back and enjoy it.I’ve seen referees change their minds about goals and maybe the odd penalty decision but never a sending off. Full marks to him although he should have been reprieved because it wasn’t a foul, not because the Linesman (yes linesman, you can stuff your ref’s assistant nonsense) thought the ball had crossed then line before the incident.Man U went through a phase or regularly having to replace theirs in mid winter during a premier league season but no I don’t recall a pitch having to be replaced during a tournament. Mind you I’ve never seen a match played in that sort of torrential rain in a summer tournament and they really tore it up. Mind you in the 70s, when Derby County were still at the Baseball Ground that ‘ruined’ pitch would have been a field of dreams.I hope that Spain get over their legendary inferiority complex and wallop Italy tonight.

  5. Arshavin plays for current UEFA Cup holders Zenit St. Petersburg who I think are bankrolled by Gazprom. Money is therefore not a concern so if any Premiership club does fancy him they’ll have to shell out a pretty large sum on transfer fee and wages.

  6. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. Andrew. Did none of the many sub-eds whose workspaces you shared over the years never do the boring old ‘unique’ rant? Something’s either unique or it isn’t. It can’t be quite unique, or indeed pretty unique. There are no shades of grey. Anyway, that Daniel Taylor bit was indeed quite the thing. What’s surprising is that there are plenty of people around who didn’t perceive Ronaldo to be a comprehensive ass-pipe before all this kicked off.Anywayanyway, thank you for the final Apprentice write-up. It made me laugh out loud! You can’t say that about enough blog entries, right?As my smelly old PE teacher used to say when we were playing football, keep it goin’, keep it goin’. Tom

  7. Arshavin doesn’t play in the Premiership (yet) – he plays for last year’s Uefa Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg. More extraordinary – he claims to be 27 years old. Does anyone else see a touch of Nureyev in him (no inuendo intended)?The Russians are easily the best team in the tournament, for all the right reasons. They have by far the best national anthem (now that the French have gone home) – a wonderful, mournful Slavic number that, if I’m not mistaken, was also the anthem played in their days as the Soviet Union.And, more importantly, all but one of their squad (Saenko who’s at FC Nuremberg – I should get out more) play for a Russian club side.That means I’d barely heard of any of them before the tournament. What used to make international tournaments great was discovering fantastic new players from around the world (Socrates, Paul Breitner, Alain Giresse, Marco Tardelli) – players you never got the chance to see at any other time.Now most of them play in the Premiership or in Spain or Italy (both of whose leagues have extensive UK TV coverage) and there’s no sense of mystery or discovery any more.My memories of Euro 2008 will be of Anyukov (the Stakhanovite right back, surely a Soviet hero in days gone by), Pavlyuchenko (who’s not actually that good but plays with an engaging romance), Arshavin and Zhirkov (left back possessed of a reassuringly non-footballer haircut, looks a little like Rob Brydon).I wonder if Russian money will keep some of them in domestic football? I fear not – we’ll probably be seeing them all every Saturday night on MOTD next season and before long we’ll be sick of them.

  8. Thank you for that spirited challenge to my journalistic integrity, Tom! Although, in my defence, I was coming at the uniqueness of the referee’s decision from someone with only a partial knowledge of the game, thus I added “pretty” to “unique” as a sort of humility gesture, as in, it seems unique to my part-timer’s eye, but it may happen every Saturday when I’m not looking, so I’m going to hang a question mark over the uniqueness or otherwise of the assumption and await further confirmation or denial from those who know better. If I’d known it was a unique event, with certainty, I would have said, “This was unique.”

  9. It looks like the predictions about Arshavin might be about to be proved correct: “Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has told Scolari… he is ready to sanction a £20m bid for Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin.” (from the Daily Star, via the BBC: anyone has the money and the connections to persuade any of the Russians to leave their cash-soaked home clubs it’s surely Abramovich?David, Liverpool

  10. Hehe. You’re a trivialist, that’s what you are, Mr Collings. That makes you worse than Hitler and slightly better than Stalin. I know you don’t like football normally, but you’re welcome to enjoy these Championships – it’s the best one I can remember since USA ’94.Qmoq

  11. It was a truly amazing match. I really thought Holland would win, but Russia approached the game with fire in their hearts and earnt a deserved win.Just imagine, a Russia-Turkey final could be on the cards!

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