The EURO2008 Revisited in Odessa

27 06 2008

Pictures to follow for this entry shortly!

As Vienna prepares for the Finale of the EURO 2008  – a Football classic Germany vs. Spain – I am enjoying those days far away in the city of Odessa, Ukraine. As my home city prepares yet again for another stream of fans pouring into the city for this coming weekend – presumably at least another 200,000 German and Spanish fans – I had a chance to witness how the EURO 2008 is followed in a country not taking part – the Ukraine.

Naturally, the semi-finale between Turkey and Germany was moderately followed, as the Turkish citizens living and working here made their way home to watch and see their team lose. The game Russia vs. Spain was a different matter in the Russian-spoken Odessa, as Russia has strong support in these parts of the country. So, Douglas, the Irish photojournalist I met here in those days, and I decided to watch the final half-hour after a grand night out at the opera, and treat each other to a double-pack of entertainment. 

The drama of Verdi’s Rigoletto had captivated us earlier and in the half-empty Odessa Opera Theatre – the picturesque and flamboyant decorations of the newly refurbished opera house matched that of the performance on stage (I shall be writing more about this in a later entry); the melodramtic death of Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter at about 9.30 pm was met with a different kind of drama on the football pitch about two hours later at the Ernst-Happel-Stadium in Vienna, when Russia’s hope of the Finale ‘died’ with a 0:3 defeat – deservedly, though, because the Russian team seemed to wander about the pitch completely destraught.

Having left the opera house just before 10.00 pm, we decided to follow the second half on the screens of the – apparently – Irish-owned Mick O’Neill’s pub on Deribasovskaya Street. Some cheering was audible through out the city-centre when taking the short stroll, and all the cafe’s and restaurants with LCD screens in seating areas on the sidewalk where packed full.

This was no different at O’Neill’s, the Irish-decorated pub was full, and we found some seats on the upper level – too close though at the large screen, so we followed the game – then 0:1 for Spain – from above on the small TV screen, situated at the billard table.

Although it seemed possible that Russia would be able to equalize or lead the game, the actual performance of the Russian team was defence. And so, when Spain scored the following goals, some of the locals in the pub cheered for Spain, but the majority remined silent, even apathic at times. And when it was clear Russia had lost this opportunity of playing in the finale. And indeed, I kept asking myself, judging on tonight’s mediocre performance, how this team made it that far.

Once the game was over, most football fans made their way home, and we, finishing our drink, did the same. One the way, we passed one of the Autobus Cafes, especially set up for the EURO 2008 Championships, and at midnight, it was already locked up and closed. Maybe, I am thinking, I will be following the Finale on Sunday in one of those – if they stay open until then!

Overall, there is no enthusiam felt in the city of the games, although advertisements are still present with EURO 2008 references, on TV as well as in the streets. The close-by Vienna Shop, closed every time I pass it, has placed an advvert outside with the English words ‘Welcome to Switzerland.’ I guess, size matters here, and so Austria and Switzerland are seen here as same.

The Sprint Cafe in the Afina Shopping Center, just behind Deribasovskaya, offering some special deals and public viewing on TV screens, has a chart affixed with the winners of each game and round. Interestingly, when Russia won against Netherlands 3:1, the three was particularly marked much larger, expressing the confidence in winning. But that was a few days ago. Life continues now as normal; afterall, by all closeness to Russia, it was not the home team that lost last night.





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