Category Archives: Football

The More, the Merrier: FIFA World Cup Transformed Beyond Recognition!

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Džeko and Hide: Bosnia Captain Unveils Shocking New Innovation!

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Filed under Football, Humour

World Cup in Motion: European Qualifying Section Kicks Off With New Team!

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Winners Love Winning, A Lot: Zlatan Ibrahimović World Tour Now Rocks London!

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Euro 2016: Four Reasons Why It Underwhelmed

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This summer, international football took one giant leap towards becoming that much more inclusive with the staging of the first 24-team UEFA European Championship (‘Euro 2016‘). The new format – essentially identical to that which produced four of the best-ever FIFA World Cups (1982-1994) – saw previously anonymous teams like Iceland and Wales create a profound impression on what is probably still solidly the number two international tournament in global soccer’s pantheon.

But fairytales aside, the general expert consensus is that Euro 2016 was a competition that failed to inspire. Most of the blame has been laid squarely at UEFA’s door, with critics citing the expansion of the finals to include nearly half the confederation’s total membership as chiefly responsible for engendering a mediocre standard of play. However, after some reflection, we at Mediolana think that there are in fact four other reasons which explain why this tournament will not live too long in the memory:

  1. A lopsided draw. The processes that UEFA chose to determine the Euro 2016 finals draw ended up producing too many four-team groups that were either ludicrously weak (England, Wales, Slovakia, Russia) or improbably strong (Croatia, Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic); moreover, this pattern was replicated in the knock-out stages. This resulted in too many average teams gaining easy passage to the competition’s latter stages, while an awful lot of talented sides fell at the first or second hurdle.
  2. Creative destruction. Following on from the first point, many of the most creative teams and players were prematurely banished from Euro 2016. Zlatan Ibrahimović’s Sweden could not get out of a Group E featuring Italy and Belgium; Turkey (Emre Mor, Hakan Calhanoğlu) faced a similarly difficult predicament in Group D; and Croatia (Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić) faced Portugal in a match-up befitting the final, rather than a round-of-sixteen tie. Stifling tactics also proved all too efficacious in eliminating stylish exponents of football, the standout case being the conquering of Xherdan Shaqiri’s Switzerland by a penalty shoot-out-happy Poland.
  3. Absent friends. Notwithstanding the tournament’s expansion, several of the better and/or more exciting teams still somehow managed to miss out on qualifying altogether. In particular, Holland, Bosnia and Herzegovina (who headed to Japan and won the Kirin Soccer Cup without many of their stars), Serbia and Denmark were all sorely missed. Additionally, the mystifying omission of FC Barcelona’s Alen Halilović from the Croatia squad robbed the watching public of the pleasure of witnessing one of football’s great emerging talents on a prominent international stage.
  4. Cancel the festival. With France still in lockdown following a succession of surreal and tragic terrorist events last year, Euro 2016 was in spirit a world away from the previous tournament held in the country, the 1998 FIFA World Cup: the panic-stricken restrictions on public screenings; the alarmingly regular clashes between regular fans (not just hooligans) and the police; and the general security-state atmosphere not only detracted from the overall value of the competition as a cultural phenomenon, but also set a horrible contemporary precedent for future sporting contests.

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Payback Time: European Commission ‘Forces Real Madrid and Barcelona Onto Level Playing Field’!

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Psycho Screaming: Euro 96 and the Origins of #Brexit

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With the United Kingdom having voted to leave the European Union by a simple majority of 51.89%, this point in time seems an apposite juncture at which to examine Brexit’s origins: to be precise, the genesis of the psychological framework which could make this unthinkable development possible. And after some contemplation, we at Mediolana believe we have ascertained the source of this mental state: the 1996 UEFA European Football Championship (‘Euro 96’).

Euro 96 was held in England, and those of us who were in London at that time can attest to the eerie nature of the atmosphere surrounding that tournament. England’s games – all of them, weirdly enough – were held at Wembley; in the stands, the Union Jack – the flag of the entire UK and up until that point synonymous with the local national team – had been firmly and suddenly supplanted by the Cross of Saint George in a curious act of cultural engineering. Kitsch and retro nationalism – exhibit A, the Three Lions anthem featuring none other than David Baddiel and Frank Skinner – was increasingly in vogue.

But it was the febrile tension in the near-deserted streets whenever England played which stays with the observer the most. This was particularly pronounced in areas of London with substantial international populations: the contrast between those adherents of the delusion that Alan Shearer was equal to if not better than Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, and those who watched these same adherents with a mixture of bewilderment and pity, was about much more than football. It was a precursor of the non-dialogue between those who put their faith in empty fantasies and then seek to blame anyone but themselves when the inevitable meltdown ensues, and those who at least try and open their eyes to attempt to perceive what might actually be happening.

Fast forward two decades, and we have just witnessed a referendum of which the essence is that England has essentially voted not merely to leave the European Union, but to dissolve the United Kingdom and relegate itself into obscurity. This nation’s inability to compute the prestige and power that it gained from both the EU and the UK – a permanent and now probably untenable seat on the United Nations Security Council, soon-to-be-revoked tariff-free access to the world’s most valuable and equitable trading bloc – is at first glance incomprehensible. But it need not be so: a little knowledge of the tenth and most parochial edition of the European Nations Cup can tell us a lot about how a country – a purportedly civilised, open and tolerant entity – can come to define itself through relentless and baseless demonisation of a largely-fictional ‘other’.

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