Europe is like a team facing relegation. Front office under a fire of criticism, new organisational plan rejected and at the end of the day even the diehard fans seem to stop giving a shit.
But teams facing relegation are gems. Where Franco-Israeli-Belgo-Irish back fours happen (Portsmouth FC) or where picking your starting striker feels like a Eurovision contest (Hull City FC).
Flash back to 1995, Mathieu Kassovitz released a bomb called La Haine at the Cannes film festival and an obscure Belgian football player became the most googled name overnight – had Google existed at the time.
The Bosman ruling changed it all for professional collective sport on the Old Continent leading to an exodus of European talents to the richest teams. Like it or not, without European law there is no Galácticos in Madrid. On top of providing free geography lessons for the local fans, it just made it possible to build a team with the best players at every position.
A whole lot of people (Kapuściński anyone?) wrote books about the influence of sport. How it led to wars, how it was used as a highly political symbol. Sport is widely considered as a means of promoting intercultural understanding. But give me a favour for my intro post, how about digging a tad further? What if sport could actually be a means of promoting… a European identity? What if besides promoting diversity, it could promote unity? What if it was payback time and 10-15 years after Europe saved European sport, it was time for sport to save Europe? What if those pan-European Arsenal squads and those top European club competitions actually triggered a process where people would feel like relating to a nationality is a thing of the past and would rather see themselves as European?
I’m not on drugs – just a child of the Eramus generation meaning I studied abroad for a year and – more important – nearly slept with a girl from every EU member state. I grew up idolizing Stefan Edberg, Marco Van Basten, Jonathan Edwards and Dejan Bodiroga. Sport definitely helped me forge a European identity and I do feel like I care when I see this flag with 12 stars.
This blog to me is just an excuse to talk about Europe, European sport and – since you’ve seen the Penélope Cruz picture on the header – European culture in general. Coming next on 12 Stars: “After Scarlet – The Top 10 European girls I’d like to see Penélope Cruz kiss.” Or not.