?sterreich am Ball
European football fans are counting down towards the beginning of June, when Switzerland and Czech Republic kick off for the first match of the European Football Championships 2008. Sixteen countries will compete for the title. For Austria, it will be the first time they even join this stage of the competition. Along with co-host Switzerland, Austria is automatically qualified this time. Expectations for the overall tournament are high; expectations for the Austrian team seem to be modest to fatalistic.
During the first phase of the tournament, Austria will face Croatia, Poland and Germany. Croatia is considered a `special enemy` because of the Croatian minority in the South of Austria, while Germany is seen the eternal football enemy. The one time Austria managed to defeat Germany, a well-documented event back in 1978 in Argentina, is still remembered as `The night of C?rdoba`. Result: 3-2 to Austria. Consequences: the world champions of 1974 did not make it to the last four of the 1978 Worldcup.
Tanja (26)<br>Wolfgang (28):
..used Euro 2008 as an excuse to buy a new TV
Christian (34) knows that the company he works for has managed to obtain tickets to quite a few matches. `I guess most of those will be sent to our customers, with only one representative of our company attending as well. I only know that I will attend the final, which I hope would be Austria against Germany, obviously with Austria winning. An Austrian win would also be good for the partying atmosphere, but let`s face it, Austria probably won`t make it through the first round. No wonder there is more merchandising for the tournament itself than for the Austrian national team. Like many others, I don`t have the shirt of the national team. If they win their first match against Croatia, that may be a reason to buy one.`
Selcuk (22), who hints that Italy is favourite for winning the tournament, will for sure get into the football stadium, but possibly only before and after matches: `I am working as a volunteer, driving UEFA officials from one place to the other. I don`t know how much of the matches I will really get to see. I don`t know if I will be able to get into the stadium while the matches are on. We shall see. I think it will be a big party with no major problems. I was born in Turkey and will support the Turkish national team before the Austrian one. I can imagine that some Turkish and Austrian hooligans will create problems between each other, simply because it`s impossible to prevent individuals from causing small trouble.`
Philip (28) thinks that things will be alright, especially because of the absence of the English national team and the hooligans they tend to bring along with them. `I haven`t managed to buy any tickets so far, but I may try to get some on the black market once the tournament has actually started. Portugal is my favourite for becoming European Champion, and if I could chose one team that I would enjoy Austria to beat, it`d be Turkey,`
Wolfgang (28, photo) is looking forward to the start of the tournament. He managed to buy tickets for Austria ? Germany and one of the semi-finals. `I bought them on the internet through the official website. It was quite difficult, almost like a lottery. Buying tickets is easier for firms than it is for individuals, but I guess they have to pay a lot for it, which makes it easier to sell remaining tickets less expensive.` Wolfgang used the occasion of the approaching European Championships to convince his girlfriend Tanja (26, also in photo) to buy a new TV, even through Tanja is not sure she will want to see any of the matches. `I guess most girls will join the parties but opt out on the football itself`, she explains.
Wolfgang thinks he will watch many of the matches in fan zones or in local pubs. `If there`s enough space, that is. I won`t be surprised if even public venues outside the stadium will be so busy that I`ll end up watching most of the matches at home with friends. I would say Italy has the best chances for winning the tournament.`
Dimitri (22) thinks the tournament will draw many Romanians to Austria. `I was born in Romania myself and I see the number of Romanian holidaymakers in Austria increase by the year. This will be another reason for them to come over and visit. I think The Netherlands or Germany will win the title and out of these two, I would prefer if it ended up being The Netherlands. I also hope that Romania will make it to the quarter finals, and that Austria will beat Germany. I guess there will be some trouble throughout the tournament, like there always is. Look at the World Championships in Germany two years ago. There were some small incidents, but overall, it was just a very pleasant event.`
Georg (28) expects Austria to lose all of their group matches, but he will be equally happy to follow the tournament. `I will try to see all of the matches. Probably at home with friends, because I don`t have any tickets. I want Spain to win, but they didn`t qualify, I believe. Well anyway, if they did, I would want and expect them to win.` Georg once again confirms that few Austrians are in the possession of football tops of their national team. Unlike the Germans, the Irish and the English do, the Austrians are not likely to wear football shirts on normal days. `Maybe some live spectators in the stadium will be wearing our national team`s shirts, but that will be all. I don`t have any team`s shirt at home, even though I played football when I was younger`, Georg says, joking that he now prefers playing with girls.
One of the positive side effects of big events like the Eurocup is that it usually allows for extra investments in infrastructure. In the case of Vienna, it served as a perfect reason to extend subway line U2 until the stadium. This event was celebrated yesterday through a big party and PR campaign. Lukas (19) thinks it`s all overdone: `I don`t like football but I do live near the place where one of the fan areas will be. I think they will make a lot of noise and puke on Viennese monuments. The parks will get overcrowded with drunk football supporters..`
`I thought of ways to take advantage of this tournament, because there will be a lot of people who will bring a lot of money. Beer will be sold at a fixed price so I thought of this project of selling beer tins as art. It would be kind of complicated because we would have to paint something on the tin as quickly as possible. That would make us street artists instead of beer sellers, and we could sell beer much cheaper than the advised 4 euros for a can. Also, I thought of renting part of our flat to football supporters, but I then started doubting, because they will probably turn our place into a mess.
Like most of the Austrians, Lukas would be happy if Austria won the tournament. His explanation: `I don`t care about it from a nationalistic or patriotic point of view. It would just turn the world of football upside down. Nobody expects anything of the Austrian team.`
Carina (22) is not interested in football either: `I don`t care who wins and I will be surprised if Austria survives their first day. Maybe I`ll go to one of the fanzones to watch the match against Germany. For the rest, I`m mainly worried that those fanzones will be very noisy, because I work right next to one.`
`I`d be nice if Greece won the tournament, because part of my family is originally from Greece. Portugal ? Greece in 2004 is one of the only football matches I ever watched. I remember how nothing happened until the moment one of my friends went for a beer. He missed the one and only goal of the match. I did see it, and I was probably the one who cared about it least. Anyway, I guess the tournament will be a good for Austria`s reputation, as it will for once put our country at the centre of Europe`s attention.`
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