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. Read part one here
– Nike may be developing somewhat of a monopoly on international shirts (and despite the stick have produced some smart kits), but adidas remains football fans’ preferred choice of footwear.
Fan zones, stadiums, bars, and even the Louvre were full of Spezials, Hamburgs, Munchens, and Gazelles. A sight to behold.
– Football subculture in general is alive and well.
Fanzines, flags, shirts and songs are all just as important as the 90 minutes on the pitch.
You might think adults are too old to be indulging in stickers…but you’re wrong. And it was great to see so many teams randomly represented in random places around the country – bars, toilets, trains, service stations, restaurants etc.
A nifty Auxerre Ultras and an Adidas Originals England design stood out, while there may be a few Leeds United ones to look out for the next time you are in France…
– Scrolling through the notes I made on my phone throughout the trip I came across the succinct five-word phrase: “Adam Lallana is a lovely footballer.”
Not only is it my idea for a new line of t-shirts, but it is an inescapable fact.
Lallana is just undeniably easy on the eye. Like his Liverpool team-mates Jordan Henderson and James Milner he presses and harries opponents high up the pitch, winning possession in dangerous areas. But then unlike that duo, he marries that work-rate with an effortless grace on the ball.
Where Henderson and Milner generally just clumsily fall over, Lallana twists and turns his way out of tight situations, prods cute through balls into threatening areas, and generally looks forwards for another man in a white shirt.
If only he could bloody finish.
– In a reversal to group stages at past major tournaments, England have played quite well but failed to pick up the right results.
However, one English six-a-side team produced a display their forefathers would recognise against an Irish and Welsh invitational VI on the beach of the northern seaside town Sainte-Cecile.
Despite conceding early on after a goalkeeping howler (from yours truly…) and missing a penalty (obviously), England ran out 3-1 winners.
Sadly that team has a quarter-final penalty defeat to Portugal written all over it.
– Speaking of beaches, Lyon nightclubs are weird.
A sandpit dancefloor and a paddling pool in the corner is a recipe for disaster. What’s not to like?
– While Gareth Bale means Wales must be considered genuine contenders, while Kyle Walker has turned into Dani Alves down England’s right flank, and while Eden Hazard has rediscovered his verve in Belgium’s beautiful away kit, there can surely only be one player of the tournament so far?
Dimitri Payet has been taking the p**s, quite frankly. The West Ham wizard’s last minute thunderbastard to win the opening match in the dying seconds and his tearful celebration is the moment of Euro 2016.
Not only did he follow that up with a another wonderful late goal against Albania, but it was the nonchalance with which he came on against Switzerland and hit the bar with a first-time volley on the run that stood out. That’s the point, he didn’t score, but he quite easily could have. It was like Eric Cantona in his prime: “Yes, I am that good. You lot are carthorses in comparison.”
Paul Pogba has been a huge disappointment but it doesn’t matter because France supporters have a new hero to adore. And adore him they shall. We all shall.
So much so that on the eve of their match with Slovakia, England fans – even those with no affiliation to West Ham – were bellowing Payet’s name in the Saint-Etienne fan park, surrounded bemused locals.
“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you’ll understand, if you sell Payet, Dimitri Payet, you’re gonna have a riot on your hands.”
Thankfully France can’t sell Payet, although West Ham might be starting to worry, but if he doesn’t win player of the tournament then you’re gonna have a riot on your hands.
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