Every four years, the current best national teams in Europe get together for a clash of the titans known as the European Football Championship, or as it is more commonly called, the Euro. This year's co-host countries are Poland and Ukraine, marking the first time the tournament has been held in Eastern Europe.
While teams start qualifying games (qualifiers) nearly two years in advance, the real momentum begins a few weeks before kick-off. Predictions are made every which way, from magazines and commentators, to the average forum or blog poster. Players are called up to represent their country (resulting in excitement or heartbreak), and the training is daily -- allowing for a barrage of photos on the Internet for loyal fans across the globe to view and then comment on the state of the men chosen to represent their country, or the country they hope wins.
This year's Euro is a chance for Europe to take a break and enjoy itself. Spain and Greece are among mixed company, as the 16 contenders include several teams from economically troubled nations. The tournament is a welcomed vacation for the many woes that have befallen citizens. Greece is looking to their team to bring hope and respite to the crisis-laden country. Spain in particular, despite its precarious economic position and bank trouble, has much to look forward to: the reigning 2008 champions look to hold onto their title as European champions and complete the Euro-World Cup-Euro treble.
While naturally, there are some drawbacks to an event of such magnitude, this is still a chance to cheer, curse, and yell. This is a chance to celebrate, and let the mind escape, even if only for a few hours a day, to watch and support one's country and countrymen. Kat H. a student currently studying abroad in Madrid and an avid soccer fan, said about the current atmosphere in the Spanish capital:
"People have traded in their [Real Madrid] kits and are now all decked out in La Roja. For the past week it’s been that way ... There are posters and ads and stuff all over the city, in the press, and on TV. [I] saw on the news that all the SNT stuff everywhere is selling out like wildfire in all the stores, and in this economy, that’s saying something."