Great soccer tournaments inspire great journalism. With Euro 2016 kicking off today, some excellent writing about the tournament has already been published. Whether it’s team previews, travelogues, or political analysis, some very smart people have been stringing very smart sentences together to help put the European Championships into perspective.
We’ve collected some choice quotes to writing that caught our eye. Take some time before the Euros start tomorrow to get a sense of what the tournament is about and what’s at stake.
1. “There were a number of people posing by the giant Euro 2016 sign for photographs, wishing, as we were, that the fan zone was already open and the football had begun.”
- Writers for online magazine The Set Pieces visit Lille ahead of the start of Euro 2016.
2. “When Smail Zidane, father of the brilliant French footballer Zinedine, came to France in the 1950s, he worked on a building site in Saint-Denis just yards from the future site of the stadium, and slept there too because he didn’t have enough money for rent. As he lay among the bricks and girders, he could scarcely have dreamed that on that same soil, four decades later, his son would be feted as a national hero.”
- James Gheerbrant explores the mindset among the French, touching on their hopes for a strong showing as well as their fear of more violence in the wake of the Paris attacks last year.
3. “And so most coaches go for off-the-shelf, blockish tactics and the result, often, is stalemate. Perhaps this tournament will be a surprise, perhaps it will develop a free-spirited mood of its own. But international football is what it is: of interest more for reasons of national pride and individual stories than for the innovativeness of the football played.”
- Jonathan Wilson speculates on how Euro 2016 might play out tactically.
4. “‘The game is undergoing a bit of a change and we’re still struggling to catch up. We’ll have to develop strategies to cope’, Siegenthaler said. What he meant is that at the tournament of 24 teams the German side will have to deal with a lot of so-called underdogs trying to emulate Leicester and Atlético.”
- Christoph Biermann on the challenges facing the defending World Cup champions Germany.
5. “Above all, though, Alli has shown the happy knack of being able to seize the moment. In all professional sports there can be talk of potential but there comes a time when it has to be fulfilled; when an individual has to deliver – and the earlier, the better. In a positive omen for Euro 2016, Alli has so far been able to do so.”
- David Hytner with a profile on Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli.
6. “To win and retain his presidency of Uefa, in which each country has one vote, be they Germany or Liechtenstein, Michel Platini courted the smaller nations by opening up qualification to both the Champions League and European Championships. Platini has since been drummed out of football administration in disgrace, but this is one of his legacies.”
- Glenn Moore on some of the off-pitch anxieties and politics surrounding Euro 2016.
7. “Eight of us have licences for driving lorries and buses anyway, we thought it would work out cheaper and the craic would be far better than hopping off and on planes. This will create memories for life. We will take every game as it comes, but hopefully we will be there for a good while.”
- Ross McKee profiles Northern Ireland fans making the pilgrimage to France.
8. “And yet the odd thing, when it comes to football, is that Iceland’s greybeard financial pirates are in their own ways the godfathers of all this. Waste, penury and anger may have followed them. But so did football, high-grade development structures, the artificial turf at Breidablik. Most things are about money in the end.”
- Barney Ronay with an excellent (and lengthy) look at Iceland and their slow rise to becoming a legit player in international football.
9. “‘I can tell you why there isn’t one, and why there hasn’t been one for a while,’ the comedian told BBC News. ‘And that’s because Three Lions killed off the football anthem quite conclusively. There were a few attempts after 1996 but no-one managed it. And that’s because it is the best football anthem of all time.’”
- Mark Savage and Sarah Jane Griffiths with a look back at “Three Lions,” the theme song for England’s Euro 1996 campaign.
10. “The hope here is that the competition can help France demonstrate its way of life is resilient after November’s attacks, and the Charlie Hebdo killings the previous January. There is also hope the host nation can emulate the multi-racial World Cup winning team of 1998, and be a unifying force for good – and that the first major tournament to be held since Fifa’s great corruption scandal erupted just over a year ago can finally put the focus back on the sport itself, helping football to recover from 12 months of disgrace. But rarely before has a major international sports event such as this taken place amid such heightened security concerns.”
- Dan Roan with a look at what’s at stake at Euro 2016 beyond a trophy.