As difficult as it is to relax while the pandemic persists, there’s a heart-filling sense of normality about television being filled once more with a summer championship.
In this case the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, which has handily – for the clarity of the history books, at least – not been renamed following last year’s postponement.
Of course, up until this point the biggest footballing story of 2021 looked like being the abortive creation of the European Super League, an event which illustrated the bland and ravenous corporatism which consumes football at the highest level.
Yet in the tournament’s opening weekend, an international audience came together to watch a sport where success only comes through togetherness, selflessness and shared understanding.
Nothing illustrates this more than the global intake of breath when Denmark’s Christian Eriksen collapsed with cardiac issues on the pitch in his country’s game against Finland last Saturday.
While there were important questions about the detail in which the host broadcaster transmitted the events – Eriksen and his wife’s distress were both witnessed, yet broadcasters cut to crowd shots if a streaker invades the pitch – we also saw the decisive and possibly life-saving selflessness of Eriksen’s friend and teammate Simon Kjaer in action.
In the words of Albert Camus…
It calls to mind – with apologies for his terminology, in an age when women’s football has never been more popular – the words of the French writer, philosopher and goalkeeper Albert Camus: “everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.”
Last Friday’s opening ceremony in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was suitably pyrotechnic, with a balletic aerial artist held aloft by balloons in the colours of all competing nations as fireworks wreathed the stadium in dusky smoke.
It was Andrea Bocelli belting out Puccini’s Nessun Dorma from the centre circle which really brought things to life, though, especially for older viewers.
There’s nothing which converts neutral football fans like seeing your own national team in the mix.
Last year was the30th anniversary of Luciano Pavarotti’s massive popularisation of the song at the Italia ’90 World Cup, which happened only eight years before Scotland appeared at a major finals.
Global circumstances aside, of course, there’s nothing which converts neutral football fans like seeing your own national team in the mix. Never mind the frustration of 15 months of lockdown, Scottish fans are breathing a sigh of relief which has been building for longer than the entire life of Billy Gilmour, one of our brightest hopes.
By the magic of print deadlines, these words are being written a few hours before Scotland’s first game against the Czech Republic, so I hope the sense of breezy optimism has survived the week, especially (big gulp) last night against England.
Or if not – in other “things people really like or really don’t like” news – that viewers are enjoying Marvel’s new Disney+ series Loki as much as I am.
Starring Tom Hiddleston as the Norse God of Mischief, the show snatches the character from a point in the past chronology of Marvel’s movies (where – SPOILER – he’s long dead) and sets him adrift in a world of time-travelling bureaucracy and investigation.
With charismatic support from Owen Wilson, the quirky and engaging first episode was like Doctor Who directed by Terry Gillian, with the feel of the director’s sci-fi films Brazil and 12 Monkeys.
If the quality stays this high, Marvel might have another WandaVision-level streaming hit on their hands.