Friday, June 6, 2008

Fear And Self-Loathing In Austria

Normally when a city or country is selected to host a major international sporting event, that country feels an immense pride in doing so. I lived in Atlanta in 1990 when they were announced as winners of hosting the 96 Olympic Games, and it was insane- rallies, a tickertape parade, immense pride in hosting the world. You know, the norm.

An even bigger factor for nations hosting major international soccer tournaments is that they do not have to qualify but are given an automatic spot. This is a huge relief for even the powerful soccer nations, to not have to even deal with the possible humiliation of failing to qualify for a major tournament, a feat most recently achieved by England for this summer’s Euro 2008, which by the way is the world's third most watched sporting event after the World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Smaller nations on the other hand are typically overjoyed at the prospect, as their chances of qualifying are not normally as certain or expected. To wit, 16 teams compete in the European Championships, but there are 53 soccer playing nations in UEFA {Europe}. So if a smaller country can host and earn an automatic qualifying spot without having to play off and upset a few established powers over a 2 year qualifying campaign, then that country’s soccer fans would be absolutely thrilled to host such a tournament.

Apparently not so for Austria, one of the co-hosts for this summer’s European Championships, known as Euro2008 {Switzerland being the other}. Austria is not a soccer power, far from it, and rarely qualify for Euros {never before, actually} or World Cups, so you would think that their fans would be over the moon. In fact, quite the opposite is true. So much so that they actually want their team to withdraw from the tournament which they are hosting. And this isn’t some dude named Jan and his mates from the local pub, this is an organized movement with thousands and thousands of signatures on a petition to the national soccer federation, and they apparently have over 10,000 siggies and counting.

“WTF?!?!?” you ask? Well, Austria in their current iteration are bad. Very bad. So bad that it is extremely disconcerting for Austrian fans, who are so ashamed of their national team that they would like them to withdraw from playing in order to save themselves and the entire nation of Austria from extreme embarrassment. People are taking to calling Austria's Group A as the "Group Of Life" because other members of it will have such an easy time {in contrast to the "Group Of Death" at each tournament}

Seriously. Here’s their website. The best bits:

Your entering this site is no coincidence. It means you care about attractive football... In short: it means you love this great sport for the sheer beauty of it...

...However, it also means you fall into a dismal state of depression when watching a match featuring the Austrian national football team. For all those displays of true skill, on a field taken by our team, occur about as frequently as meteorite impacts...

...It cannot be denied: the performance of the Austrian team is an insult to your sense of aesthetics as well as to what you expect from this sport. Their participating in the EURO 2008 is to you a contradiction in itself. We understand.

Pretty epic stuff, and I can't remember another instance in my lifetime of such a "movement".

Duke college football fans, are you listening?


beast in 'bama said...

So...Austrians = Arsenal fans? They should quit complaining about how "pretty" their team plays and just state the plain, honest truth: DON'T EMBARRASS US!!!

I can sympathize. I went to Rice back in the old Southwest Conference days.

When Texas or aTm would visit our cavernous 70K seat stadium, almost all the seats were full - including our 4,500 (grad & undergrad) student allotment. Once everyone was seated, the Christians vs. Lions bloodletting would begin.

Having growing up in the Bear Bryant halcyon of small-town Alabama in the '70s, it was a surreal experience, to say the least.

Kanu said...

No, BIB- Arsenal is actually good, and Arsenal fans take pride in that, but we also love being shit but resolute and being outshot something like 27-3 by ManUtd in the 2005 FA Cup final and then beating them in a penalty shootout with PV4 scorinig the FA Cup winning penalty with what would be his final kick in an Arsenal kit.

Don't care how cheesy this YouTube vid is, I've watched it 100 times and I'll watch it 100 more I'm sure...

beast in 'bama said...

You do realize that I realize that Arsenal is/are/were good, right? ;) Just poking at you, man, just poking. I'm hoping that Rice and UGA play in Omaha so that we can really talk some shit.

Oh, and "Having growing" from my comment above? The result of living too close to Auburn for too long; i.e., your twitter spelling reference from a few days ago.

Kanu said...

Haha. Yes, I absolutely realize that- I'm not a part of what Steven on World Soccer Daily/Fox Football Fone-In calls the Scientologists Arsenal fanbase.

Austria are actually doing well today, they might just nick a draw yet...

beast in 'bama said...

Austria deserved a draw today - played their asses off in the second half. Not pretty, but they used the Dirk Kuyt work-your-ass-off-until-you-get-one method.

It's 96 in the shade here today, so I've been able to take in both games. The Germans cruised, but looked a little shaky at times at the back and vulnerable to speed on the wing.

The kids are about to drag me out, though; they better be careful what they wish for.