June 13, 2012

The Polish-Russian war

It is a well-known fact that in Romania the media have a soft spot for drama and exaggeration. Sometimes when reading the morning news I have to double check with family & friends back home to make sure that the country is not on the brink of extinction or civil war. 
In Poland, however, the media are far more reserved and less dramatic, that is until the Russians and their football team are factored into editorial decisions. Then all sanity goes out the window and suddenly we are dealing with a Polish-Russian war, occupation, nationalism, historical grievance and some wounds that are too recent to close. Yes, both Poland and Russia have some hardcore fans, battles in the streets are not uncommon during the domestic season and incidents have been reported since the beginning of Euro 2012 in some Polish cities. Still, that doesn't really count as a war, and chances are, talking about it and making such a fuss will only add fuel to the fire and transform football into a pretext for other issues that don't necessarily have much in common with it. 
Earlier today, having overdosed on stories and editorials on the most ardent topic of the day, I went out to get coffee and had to fight my way through massive crowds of overweight men eating kebab and drinking beer, with their bellies exposed in the mild Warsaw sun, probably getting ready to go to war. I'd say accuracy is crucial in times like these. 
Which reminds me: Tango 12. No matter how much I liked football (this month), I have some major objections to mixing tango into it. Even if it is a tribute to the World Cup in 1978, organized in Argentina. Even if it is faster, rounder and more resistant than any other official ball. Apparently the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation has the explanation: "It's a great ball. It's got a special name, Tango. It's the dance of a couple and has a great connection to football". All it takes to make the war complete is an army of semioticians, and even then I'd still have my doubts about the symbolic meaning of tango in the complex and elaborate structures of football.
Adidas Tango 12
P.S. Who didn't see this coming?

And did anybody see this coming?

June 10, 2012

Euro 2012: first weekend in Warsaw

I've never been much of a sports fan and sport events have not exactly ranked high on my "to do" / "to see" lists. Not even when faced with my obvious obsession with dancesport, which I have always labeled as art rather than sport, despite all evidence that points otherwise.
But every two years I get into this football frenzy which I can't really explain or fully understand, not that I'm making any effort in this direction. I just sit down and enjoy, occasionally wondering how is it possible that something I am not normally interested in keeps me focused for an hour and a half.  
Obviously I got really excited over Euro 2012 taking place in Poland and I was looking forward to seeing Warsaw go through a major makeover, becoming loud, colorful, wrapped up in a bubble of energy, the kind of energy that's only perceptible when mass events are spiced up with competitive tension.

What happened on the day of the opening match resembled a ritual performed by the book, following all rules and etiquette from flawless organization to massive mobilization, dress codes, slogans and face paint. This is in fact one of the things I admire most about Poland and Polish people, their ability to get together and support any cause as long as it's a matter of Polish pride. All of Europe was watching, so they had to display a sea of white and red outfits, supporting their team and making the name Lewandowski probably the most uttered word in Poland for one night. To put it in my words, it looked like a perfectly executed choreography, with great technique but no sparks or feeling, and even though from an objective point of view I have to admit they were praiseworthy, the subjective indicators of a good performance were far below my expectations. I remember the matches I saw in Croatia in the main square in Zagreb, the nights out in Bucharest when our schedules revolved around football even though Romania wasn't even playing or the surreal match between Czech Republic and Turkey in 2008, which I watched with C. in a small pub in Brno where I swear the roof was about to collapse from all the screaming and jumping and somehow I expected Warsaw to be ten times better and that's probably why I was so disappointed. Because in the end it all looked like yet another pretext to get senselessly drunk and lie on the sidewalk in the otherwise very posh and exquisite Foksal street which after the opening night smelled like a gigantic open-air toilet.
Then on Saturday the city was back to normal, as if nothing had ever happened, as if people had come out of their houses for an impeccable white-red performance and returned to their lives the next day, oblivious to any other games, results or teams, the only thing that reminded there was something going on were the helicopters and the few Portuguese fans cheering for their team in the pubs that did bother to turn on their TVs. By Sunday I could have easily said that Friday night never happened, as if I was so eager to witness a football championship in my city that I hallucinated one. And if I didn't, then I surely did project all these unreal expectations over it, but that is just another proof that I never learn anything from my previous experiences and never seem to remember that note to self that says "stop expecting things to look the way you thought they would". 

June 6, 2012

Let the great world spin

One year later, we're anxious to go back, with improved dancing skills, emotions under control, a plan to save our bodies from demineralization, ready to avoid some of the mistakes we made last year and looking forward to repeating some others. 

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range.

Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
(Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall)