How did I see in the start of Euro 2008? Watching a grainy picture with the TV on mute. The family Holmes had just met up in Nottingham and although my parents and brother enjoy their football, they were not exactly jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of seeing Switzerland face the Czech Republic.
The viewing conditions could be blamed on a dodgy aerial and an ongoing discussion of recent holiday photos, but in any case I doubt a crisp HD image or the witterings of Motty would have made much improvement on a traditionally bonkers opening ceremony and a fairly uninspiring first match.
As any committed follower of major world sporting events knows, an introductory cavalcade of freaks wearing brightly-coloured clothing and making little sense is mandatory on these occasions. In Basel, we got thirteen long minutes which involved almost 1000 drama students and other assorted wannabes, mostly with boxes on their heads, some plastic cows and lots of fake snow. The theme was 'the Alpine seasons' and we were told it was inspired by 'modern pixel art' (whatever that is). Michel Platini looked suitably bemused. At least the madness concluded with the release of hundreds of green and white balloons which, with us being Plymouth Argyle fans, raised our spirits (particularly as we were still reeling from the earlier news involving our young goalkeeper).
Before we kicked off, I took a quick straw poll to see who everyone was supporting at Euro 2008. Mum and Dad announced that, having been on holiday in Canada for almost a month, they surprisingly hadn't taken the time to carefully assess each team and plot potential routes through to the final in Vienna. Disappointing attitude, but I let it pass. I therefore assigned them the following teams: Mum - Portugal (an obvious one, as my folks spend several weeks there every year); Dad - Croatia (as Tottenham's only Euro 2008 representative is Luka Modric) and my brother Simon gets Spain (he's Arsenal and prefers Cesc to Gallas, Senderos, Lehmann etc).
It took a while for the Swiss-Czech encounter to get going, and then Alexander Frei promptly suffered a nasty knee injury which will sideline him for the rest of the tournament. I have never liked Frei after he gobbed over Steven Gerrard at Euro 2004, but as the tears ran down his face I did feel a little bit of sympathy (I'm not made of stone after all). And the team then paid another high price for some brainless defending which allowed Czech sub Vaclav Sverkos to shin in the winning goal. For once Pip Senderos couldn't really be blamed. A pretty atrocious start for the co-hosts then.
An evening meal was on the agenda while Portugal were playing Turkey but my mate Steve came up trumps with text updates on events in Geneva. News of Pepe's opening goal came just as I was polishing off my carvery dinner and I quickly relayed the news to die-hard Portugal fan Mum. She didn't want to show her emotions in a packed restaurant but I think inside she was jubilant. Raul Meireles wrapped up the win as I was demolishing a peach cheesecake.
On arrival back at my brother's, we watched the highlights, and I remembered reading that Meireles has a set of tattoos almost as extensive as the lead character in Prison Break. I'm guessing he's therefore been dubbed 'the Portuguese David Beckham', as it appears all competing nations must have such a player under UEFA rules. Valon Behrami is the Swiss equivalent, while Andreas Ivanschitz fits the bill for Austria. The best France could offer up is Franck Ribery, so they are probably going to incur a hefty fine.
My highlight of the day however was undoubtedly the sight of Gordon Strachan pitchside in Basel sporting a natty leather jacket. He looked like a tiny ginger Fonzy. Compared to the fashion disasters in the opening ceremony, wee Gordon oozed style so let's hope for more sartorial elegance from him throughout the tournament.
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