The second round of group matches have been completed and Irish eyes are no longer smiling, while the Dutch have started packing their bags in anticipation of an early flight home. Then last night, Ukraine and France were forced to walk off the pitch after their match was hit with torrential rain of Taiwanese proportions, before Sweden bowed out on a thriller against England.
However, the big story of the second round of matches happened on Tuesday, when — and who could have predicted it — a march through Warsaw city center by Russian fans turned ugly.
As this very newspaper reported: “Police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets on Tuesday to disperse fights between fans of the rival teams and also to repel attacks by Polish fans against officers in the Polish capital … Riot police were pelted with missiles including rocks, flares and bottles, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at fans in response after bloody fighting broke out on the bridge across the Vistula River leading to the stadium.”
Surely it was obvious to anyone with any grasp on reality that the good people of Warsaw might just take umbrage to thousands of Russians marching through the city’s streets.
Cue Polish Minister of Sport Joanna Mucha.
“I do not think there will be any problems with this march or with this day. I am sure everything will go all right,” Mucha said. “It is absolutely normal for the fans supporting the teams just to have a march during the tournament, so this is an absolutely normal situation.”
Yes, I can just see it now …
A phone rings at Barcelona City Hall.
“Hello, yes, this is the mayor.”
“Hello, yes, this is Jose Headcase, president of the Real Madrid supporters association. Just phoning to ask if it’s OK if 5,000 of us march through the city before the match at the Camp Nou on Sunday?”
“I’m sorry? What did you say?”
“Just asking if it’s OK for us to march?”
“Is this a windup? Are you mad? Do you have a death wish?”
“No, it’s quite normal according to Polish Minister of Sport Joanna Mucha.”
“Yeah, well, she won’t have to pay to rebuild the city center, and besides we don’t have enough hospital beds. Are you a masochist?”
Talking of masochists, one reader — and I truly appreciate all five of you — who apparently took umbrage with my Oleg Blokhin quote in my article on Tuesday spent not an inconsiderable amount of his own precious time and money phoning Times Towers, trying to verify the exact date and page number of the edition of the New York Times in which the quote was printed, which all seems rather over the top when a 10-second Google search on “New York Times 2006 Blokhin” would have done the trick.
(If you still haven’t mastered the technology the answer is June 5, 2006, and the title of the piece, Oleg Blokhin on bananas and beating up foreigners. It even includes the original Russian transcript of the conversation Blokhin had with Russian-language Ukrainian Web site Sport.com.ua.)
Perhaps, dear reader, you would benefit from a trip to Euro 2012 host city Lviv, Ukraine, the birthplace of masochism no less. Well, at least the once home of the man who gave his name to the word, one Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, author of The Venus in Furs.
Now I thought being dominated and abused by a woman was called marriage, but I’d be wrong, as our friends at Agence France-Presse (AFP) explain: “The origins of masochism — defined as deriving sexual pleasure by being physically or emotionally abused — is less well-known than its opposite, sadism, which takes its name from the French writer the Marquis de Sade. While De Sade has had countless books and films made about his libertine lifestyle and anything-goes sexuality, even in Lviv, Masoch is a relative unknown. No roads are named after the author and there’s no mention of him in any municipal guidebooks.”