Euro 2012: A tournament of moles, poles and own goals
Euro 2012 has provided a feast of fun on the pitch but at least as much amusement off it. Sam Wallace charts the weird and wonderful moments
1 Blokhin blows his top and offers a journalist outside
Yes, there were questions about the relative merits of the "false No 9" and in-depth discussions about the evolution of modern Italian football but when it came to Euro 2012's best press conference there was no competition.
Oleg Blokhin is a man with a temper that takes a while to reach boiling point but it is worth the wait.
After Ukraine's elimination at the hands of England in the final Group D game, Blokhin lost his rag with a Ukrainian journalist and offered to take him outside for what came through on the simultaneous translation as "a man-conversation". The journalist in question, to his credit, did not back down. The room held its breath. Blokhin, to the relief of the Ukrainian football federation, calmed down.
2 The incredible utterances of Michel Platini. Part I
"I am wholly against goal-line technology. It's not goal-line technology itself, I am against it coming into force. To actually make decisions. I remember the Spanish and the Italians in [the] 2002 [World Cup] went out because the ball crossed the [by]line against North Korea." He meant South Korea.
3 Rio's hair-raising question for Pirlo
Rio Ferdinand responded to a journalist's tweet that he was attending an Andrea Pirlo press conference by requesting that the reporter ask Pirlo whether he kept a comb in his sock to use on his hair during a game. What Ferdinand meant was that Pirlo gave the impression of having so much time on the ball, he could have combed his luxuriant mane during a game.
On seeing the tweet the Italian press sensed an interesting story, although the language barrier meant they did not quite grasp Ferdinand's meaning. One of them collared Pirlo after the press conference. "Rio Ferdinand wants to know how you keep your hair so tidy," he asked. Confused, Pirlo responded: "My secret is a lot of water."
4 The English hope, the Italians expect
After Italy had dispatched England in the quarter-finals, the wives and girlfriends of the Italian players came out to Krakow and moved into the hotel in which the English press had been based for most of the tournament. There was a minimum of fuss from the families and a complete absence of paparazzi around the hotel. It is telling that, in Italy, even the players' nearest and dearest only get interested when the team reaches the latter stages of a tournament.
5At least England lead the way in one field
As usual the Football Association did an excellent job of its media centre at the Andels Hotel in Krakow, with those staple requirements for newspaper reporters, fresh coffee and Wifi access, readily available. The team may struggle but the FA has led the field in media facilities for years. It is interesting that others, such as Italy, now seem to be following suit.
6 An ugly own goal by the English press team
The English press football team has a handful of stalwarts but few as long-serving as the goalkeeper, the Daily Mirror's John Cross, who is known for his surprising capacity to pull off "wonder saves".
It is fair to say that Cross holds something of a torch for Arsenal, so imagine his delight when, with Robert Pires through on goal for the French press team, Cross pulled off what he would no doubt himself describe in copy as "an astonishing stop". Unfortunately, Cross's team-mate Jason Burt, of The Daily Telegraph, stepped in to clear the ball, smashed it into Cross's face whereupon it cannoned into the net. Pires was amused.
7 The incredible utterances of Michel Platini. Part II
"I drank a lot of vodka, a local form of alcohol." Said at his press conference on Saturday, following his announcement that Euro 2020 could be staged in "12 to 13 countries", later extended to "24 or 32 nations".
8 Danny Fullbrook will be sadly missed
All of those reporters who cover the England team will remember Euro 2012 as the tournament when Danny Fullbrook, the Daily Star chief football writer, finally lost his battle with cancer on 18 June at the age of 40. When journalist students tell me how much they want to write about football, I always try to make the point that to be a newspaper reporter you have to love newspapers too, and accept the many frustrations of the job with as much good grace as you can muster. As well as enjoying the occasional triumph.
It would be fair to say that no one understood the need to take the highs and lows in one's stride as well as Danny, who never lost his sense of perspective. We will miss him.
9 England down to 10 men
The team group photograph taken on the pitch before the game is one of those customs that continues in international football because, well, it always has. Photographers crowd around to take the picture, although you rarely see them used in newspapers. Perhaps that was why Glen Johnson forgot to join England's team group for the game against France, making that 10-man picture something of a collector's item.
10 City centre site seems to suit England
Krakow, where the England team were based during Euro 2012, is a beautiful city and is completely wasted on the stag-do crowd. England's city centre experiment was a success (the Poles were pleased to have them in their city) and they will aim to replicate it in Brazil at the 2014 World Cup finals. Come August, the team will move into St George's Park in east Staffordshire which will seem tame by comparison. If Platini gets his way with Euro 2020, the team could end up spending six weeks there.
11 Mole in the England camp. Part I
I do wonder from time to time what happened to the mole – literally, a subterranean-dwelling mammal – who was last seen trying to escape Polish security men with a dash across the main stand at England's Hutnik stadium training ground outside Krakow. In days gone by, at least one tabloid newspaper would have campaigned for his freedom, perhaps flying him back to England where he could live out his days restfully away from international footballers.
12 Mole in the England camp. Part II
Sadly, those days when experienced news reporters would have competed bitterly to take custody of a small, short-sighted, disorientated creature – and we're not talking about some of the more elderly members of the FA council – are over.
But at least the real mole saw more than the Swedish mole, a reporter who watched Hodgson's tactical briefing before the Sweden game through a glass hotel ceiling. Despite his claim to have picked up an insight into England's way of playing and passed it on to his national team, Sweden were still beaten and sent packing.
13 When does Wenger get his down time?
Arsène Wenger was a pundit for French television for much of Euro 2012, and could often be spotted in the press boxes of stadiums. He was also in Poland and Ukraine in his position as a "global brand ambassador" for Castrol. He declined an interview with the English press because he was, as he said, "on holiday". Fair enough, but it does beg the question: when does he get a break from football?
14 English fans select strange hobbies
The Kiev Post, an English language newspaper, carried a story on Friday that claimed some English fans had been "entertaining themselves by lifting Ukrainian women's skirts or breaking trees", the latter of which was witnessed by Shaun Walker, The Independent's Moscow correspondent, who was in Kiev.
Under the headline "English fans show rowdy side while Swedes and Dutch charm" it listed a few more misdemeanours, although with the caveat that the misbehaving fans were a minority. The FA had problems with tickets being sold to fans who were not members of the official supporters' group and therefore had not been subject to the usual vetting procedures. If there was a link between "lifting skirts" and "breaking trees" as the two favoured pastimes it was not made clear.
15 What will be the legacy of Euro 2012?
The big challenge for Poland and Ukraine will be how they use their stadiums as part of the tournament legacy. Lechia Gdansk, who have played in the 43,000-capacity PGE Arena, average crowds of around half that. The same is the case for Slask Wroclaw in their newly built 43,000 Municipal Stadium. Roy Hodgson's team will also play in the National Stadium in Warsaw when they face Poland in a World Cup qualifier in October. Kiev's Olympic stadium will surely be the venue for Ukraine's qualifier against England in September next year. But beyond that?
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