Euro 2008 expectations
The Czech national football team has a solid international reputation. 1976 was the most successful year so far, with the then Czechoslavakian team claiming the title in the European Champtionships of that year. The Czech Republic qualified for most of the recent European and World Championships and, at several occasions, made it to the best four. Expecting that the upcoming European Championships will be an exciting event for the Czechs, I hit the street today with the purpose of asking them about their expectations for the tournament.
The first barrier I meet: many young Czechs are not that interested in football. A solid amount of them will only start watching the tournament in case the Czech team makes it to the final ? or not even then. Jiri (28) doesn`t know the rules to the game. Honza (24) is only interested in chemistry. Rosta (27) prefers martial arts and, like many Czechs, ice hockey.
`I will keep an eye on the bookmakers` quotes, if only to help my friends place their bets`
Petr (27) confirms that ice hockey matches generally attract bigger TV audiences than football matches. `Ice hockey also has fewer hooligans, which makes it a more sportive activity. I also think that Czechs tend to prefer individual sports over team sports, and they also oftentimes prefer practicing over watching. The relative unpopularity of football can partly be explained by the relatively poor level of play in the Czech premier league.`
Lukas (24) tells me that used to be more interested in rugby then in football: `I wanted to start doing that when I was younger. My mum wouldn`t allow me to. She didn`t really state a reason: just the fact that I wasn`t an adult yet. Now I am grown-up but I have lost interest in it.`
Andrea (25) likes yoga, aerobics and spinning. `I am not too excited about football. My boyfriend does like watching it but he won`t be watching this tournament as he needs to prepare for his exams.` Martin (32) likes practicing adrenaline sports, snowboarding and BMX. I will watch big ice hockey matches if they are on, but I`m not too much interested in football.
Czechs who do intend to follow the tournament generally think of Portugal as the major title candidate, followed by Italy and France. Surreya (25), originally from Turkey is the only one to point to Turkey as a favourite candidate for the title.
Goal keeper Petr Cech seems to be the most-respected player in the Czech team. Major challenges for the Czech ?quipe: the core of the team is the same as the one from 2004, the difference being that all players are now for years older. Star players Nedved and Rosicki will not play. Rosicki is injured while Nedved simply wasn`t invited to join. Opinions about Nedved`s absence are diverse. Some claim he has become too arrogant and lazy, while some think he cannot be missed in the Czech team. Rosicki`s non-participation is explained to me as they key reason for moderate expectations: `Rosicki is not playing so we might not get very far` is a comment I keep hearing over and over.
Contrary to the average expectations, Petr (25) is confident that the Czech team will make it to the final, `hopefully against Portugal`. Another Petr (24) thinks that the chance of Czech Republik winning the cup is smaller than 4 years ago. He has big expectations of the German team.`
Michael (29, photo) is not too positive about the expected performance of the national team: `The group we are in is a difficult one. Turkey and Portugal are tough opponents, and so is Switzerland which has the advantage of only playing home-matches. I won`t bet on any matches, but I will keep an eye on the quotes. I am curious to know about the expectations of the bookmakers, and I use my knowledge of football to help my friends place sensible bets.`
Michael tried to buy tickets to some matches, but he is still unsure of whether or not he will attend any of the matches in real-life: `I guess I will see most of it on TVs in pubs.` When I ask him whether watching football is a boys-only activity, he replies: `The girls will probably also sit in, even though they may not be big football fans. They are often more concerned about the way the football players look, especially during the moments where they take off their shirts.`
Martin (20) likes to rely on voices in the media, who say that the current Czech team is stronger than the one from four years ago. He explains that, unless in the case of Czech Republic winning the entire tournament, it is unlikely that Prague will burst into a big football festival during Euro 2008. `There are too few football fanatics and even the ones who are will not let themselves be carried away by excitement. If the Czech Republic makes it to the next round, some people will probably start buying and wearing shirts of the national teams, but that will be as exciting as it gets. No massive waving of national flags, no decorated streets. International ice hockey competitions usually lead to a little more craziness than football tournaments, but even that is nothing compared to the extravagant costumes and rituals of the English or the Dutch during football events.`
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