Friday 6 June ~
There is a major football tournament starting tomorrow but from the newspaper back pages you wouldn't know. The headlines concern this summer's ever-present figure – Cristiano Ronaldo. But the fact he is playing for his country in the tournament's second game against Turkey tomorrow night has allowed many to crowbar yet more coverage of his possible move to Real Madrid into previews of Euro 2008. Then we have Mark Hughes's arrival at Man City and, further in still, some tournament build-up. Today this was mostly interviews with Xabi Alonso who, as it happens, has a Euro 08 computer game to promote.
In the WSC office we've been deluged with Euro 08 press releases and survey results, mostly about who to follow at a tournament with no home nation representation. Many of these are based principally around wanting Germany and France to fail miserably. There is also the question of which country has the “fittest” fans. The interviewees of Nuts magazine have a “sneaking admiration” for French women, something the magazine found particularly surprising and noteworthy.
The daily newspaper coverage is just as flippant and often verges on xenophobic. The space-filling “Who to support” column features Austrian waltz, Swiss roll, Swedish Ikea, Greek marble and Christmas Turkey jokes. A favourite insidious immigration reference, from the Sun to the Times, was the Polish builder/plumber joke. The return of Frank Skinner also induces particular dread. It's not all that bad, though. Adrian Chiles attempted to haul up the Sun by attacking the casual England fan.
And, although this may not be much consolation, at least the UK tabloids are not the only ones at it. Taking what seems to be direct influence from Sun in particular, the Polish paper Super Express has published a picture of national coach Leo Beenhakker holding the decapitated heads of Germany captain Michael Ballack and coach Joachim Loew under the caption “bring us their heads”. While Beenhakker has apologised and seems suitably embarrassed the row has created a strong reaction in Germany. The German camp, including Polish-born Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, have not reacted to the provocation. The Group B game between the two countries is on Sunday evening.
Maybe once the tournament starts the coverage will improve. But it's a shame the English media can't employ even a fraction of the analysis, previewing, commemorating and general shouting that they used for last month's Champions League final.