We have to admit it-we are all football mad in our house. We are just passionate about the beautiful game. It does not really matter who is playing as long as it is a good game. There is the odd down side of course. Jody, our operatic Parrot who also likes football, often gets carried away with the excitement, particularly when a goal is scored. She will shout and scream and laugh like one of those South American TV commentators and just does not stop. She has had to be relegated to the dining area while we are watching the game on TV-much to her disgust! But at least our ear drums are safe.
Big year for International Football in France with Euro 2016
This year the 2016 UEFA European Championship finals, commonly called Euro 2016, will be held in France from 10th June to 10th July. Spain is currently the defending champions. 53 teams competed to qualify for the 23 team finals. France as the hosts country is automatically qualified. The finalists 24 countries will play in 6 group stages of four teams each. Followed by a knockout stage leading to the final. French teams have won the Euros twice, 1984 & 2000 and are also World Cup winners. They will be strong contenders to add to that tally. Ten stadiums in France will host the matches. Our nearest stadium is Bordeaux.
French players are extremely well regarded around the world. Many play for teams in the English Premier League and lower leagues as well as many top European teams. A number of French managers/coaches also run English teams.
Not a Footie person?
We know that not everybody likes football. Maybe you are one of them. Of course we do not understand how anybody could not like football but, it is something we have to accept.
The Big Boys have it all-Not this Time!
Let’s face it, the big Football clubs around the world, with huge fan bases and lots of money, much from television rights, can buy all the best players and managers and tend to dominate the leagues. But, something has gone awry this year in the English premier league. The big boys are not having things all their own way! A small but not particularly fashionable team from the West Midlands of Britain has pushed aside the big clubs and brought home the greatest prize in English football. The English Premier League championship still with two further games to play.
Leicester City, little heard of outside of England, known as the Foxes since 1948, (the region is a well known fox hunting area and the Team comes out to the sound of a hunting horn), joined the football league in 1894, and have had a pretty mediocre record of achievement over their 132 years. Not considered a ‘Big’ club, more of a Yo Yo team climbing and descending the league ladders in quick succession. The club has gone through various traumas and ownerships but is currently owned by Asian businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha whose name just does not exactly slide off of the tounge- ‘There’s only one vichai srivadd……’ But whose sponsorship has given a huge upward rise to the club.
Phoenix rising from the Ashes
Leicester City’s rise to the top this season is a real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ fairy tale. Christmas 2015 saw them reach the top of the Premier league. Exactly 12 months earlier at Christmas they were in last place facing almost certain relegation. A new manager was appointed. The mercurial, hugely experienced Italian Claudio Ranieri. Ranieri nicknamed ‘Tinker man’ from his spell as manager of Chelsea due to his constant changing of the team.
As well as experience Ranieri brought to the Club temperance and stability, instilling in the players an amazing degree of teamwork and enthusiasm for the game. Rated by the bookies as a 5001-1 chance of winning the Championship. Hardly known players suddenly started to win their games against all the top opposition. Jamie Vardy, a winger/striker who in 2011 was playing for non league conference side Fleetwood Town, burst into the headlines scoring 13 goals over 11 consecutive games and is now an England player. French Algerian Riyad Mahrez, from a French league 2 side who joined Leicester in 2014, has displayed his amazing ball skills to good effect both scoring and making goals was this year named the PFA Player of the year. The Leicester City Team operates like a well oiled machine with everyone playing their part and on any given day the ‘Man of the Match’ award could go to any player. What Ranieri has shown is that it is the spirit and collective teamwork that makes great football teams, or any other form of team, not just the individual skills of some members. On Saturday 8th May the impossible happened. The club raised the biggest prize in English football, the Premier League Championship trophy high.
The Underdogs roar
The pundits are calling this the greatest sporting achievement of all time. Certainly, in football terms it is right up there. This true story is about a football team but can apply to any walk of life and although it is rare enough to be like a fairy story it proves miracles can happen. It shows that ordinary individuals working together can achieve such incredible things and reach such incredible peaks. Would it not be great if at the Euro 2016 championships one of the little fancied country teams could do the same? Even those who may not like football would want to cheer them on. Just like Leicester City Football Club. Now that would be an underdog football story which everyone around the world would appreciate.
By Ronnie Macdonald from Chelmsford and Largs, United Kingdom – Mahrez free kick 1, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38346957