Rob Conlon has been on a two-week adventure in France for Planet Football, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Euro 2016.
Along the way, he and his friends pretended not to be scared in Marseille, went viral in Bordeaux, and narrowly avoided a car crash in Saint-Etienne, all while trying to fulfill the “drink all your beer” part of the Don’t Take Me Home song (not when driving, obviously).
After travelling just shy of 3,000 kilometres around the whole of the country, he noted down some of his musings.
– All it took was two nights in Paris to fall in love with France, and travelling between each corner of the country only further enhanced the feeling that it is a perfect host nation for a major tournament.
This only fuels the sadness, regret and worry that future tournaments. Russia 2018, a homeless Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022 are likely to fail in generating such a festival atmosphere for a variety of reasons.
Not only is France a beautiful country full of wonderful cities and towns which are easy to travel between, but the French people welcomed supporters with an enthusiasm and pride – despite plenty of negative headlines (more on that later).
The Paris fan zone is arguably the piece de resistance of the tournament. Watching the opening match alongside 90,000 fans with the Eiffel Tower in the background is how all football should be watched, quite frankly. A special moment.
– Writing about being in Marseille is my pathetically-Inbetweeners equivalent of writing about Vietnam.
You don’t know, man, ‘cos you weren’t there.
While it goes without saying that the clashes between England and Russia fans were thoroughly depressing, it cannot be over-emphasised that those ‘supporters’ represented a small minority from both sides.
The fact of the matter is thousands of innocent fans were put in serious danger by a staggering lack of organisation from the authorities (the thought of no segregation given the events at the end of the match is disturbing), and a police force whose sole method of calming a tense atmosphere was to deploy tear gas. And lots of it. A bull in a China shop springs to mind.
The day itself was a strange cocktail of excitement, trepidation, nerves, anticipation, and, come the final whistle, frustration. Eric Dier’s goal though, bloody hell.
– Such violence may dominate headlines, but supporters of all nationalities were mixing, sharing beers, and getting along.
In one Bordeaux bar this culminated in fans of England, France, Hungary and Austria all trading songs on the eve of the Hungarians’ group match against the Austrians.
One England fan decided to try impress some Austrians fans sat to his left by shouting: “F**k Hungary!” Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realise behind him sat a table of Hungarian ultras. Upon having this fact pointed out, his English charm, or lack thereof, led to a sympathetic plea: “F**k Austria!”
Thankfully, any such tension was punctuated by the arrival of one lady’s birthday cake, prompting a mass singalong of Happy Birthday, followed by a less-than flattering rendition of “23, you’re having a laugh”.
At one stage the whole bar rose in appreciation of the French national anthem, and the English displayed an impressive dose of self-deprecation with this song.
England fans’ response to the trouble in Marseille…
Posted by Planet Football on Tuesday, 14 June 2016
– Despite all the criticism and calls for him not to be selected this summer, Wayne Rooney remains England’s talisman.
All the talk leading into the tournament suggested it was time for the old warhorse to be put out to pastures new to make way for an exciting and exuberant stable of young studs. And yet Rooney has thrived in this England team and remains the one player who, once that opening whistle blows, team-mates and supporters look towards when the going gets tough.
The England captain has now carried the hopes of a nation for over a decade and has undoubtedly struggled with the weight of expectation on numerous occasions. However, he has also proved himself to be a rare talent in terms of British football, and is playing with an authority which the rest of the team can feed off.
While Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli have the raw edge to steal supporters’ hearts, no player invokes such an impassioned roar from fans whenever he appears on screen to make a clearance, beat a player, or take a shot as Rooney.
– Bored of the England band playing The Great Escape? Bored of Seven Nation Army being played over every stadium PA?
Well, great news, you have two new songs to get bored of and complain about on Twitter! Don’t Take Me Home has become the new anthem of England’s travelling support, while Will Grigg’s On Fire has become a chart hit, and thanks to its adaptability is a dead cert to be sung by every team in Britain’s fans at some point next term.
It’s time to embrace the earworms.