The Euro games. The football. The hype. The hoopla. The images. Fans in painted faces. Girls in look-at-me clothing. Beer-barrelled males in national colours. The debates. The arguments.
I'd watched World Cup '82 . Well, reruns of it a couple of weeks after it actually ended, and on a black and white TV, and without any real idea what it was all about. At a time when very few people around had TVs, my mother had gone out and splurged on one the year before, and housefuls of neighbours would turn up when anything interesting was on the program. In early summer, my grandmother had fallen and broken her thigh bone and was very ill but that didn't deter neighbours from swamping the house. My aunt was reported to have remarked that she couldn't understand how so many people could stand to watch men in the same black and white shirts chase a football around every night.
By the time the '86 edition rolled in, we'd been subscribing to Sportsworld and Sportstar magazines and regularly following the BBC radio sportsnews and English FA Cup on TV so we'd become pretty football-savvy. We could reel off names of players, even relatively obscure ones if they were cute, and knew which teams had great footballing history. We loved the spectacularity of Mexico '86 and were hugely entertained by the witticisms of the glib commentators. Like a French player taking a fall being breezily described as, "And that's a French roll." I remember Mum, my older sister and I once actually pulled off an all-nighter taking in 4 matches in succession. We stocked up on fresh pineapples slices, brewed tea at midnight, munched on snacks and were deliriously happy. By the time the final whistle blew on the last game, daylight was already breaking on the horizon.
I hardly remember the '90 edition. And on the late afternoon of the '94 final, my sister's husband's younger brother was killed in a road accident. My younger sisters went over. I stayed home with my mother who had cancer then and could no longer stay out long hours at night. We watched the final together in tired distraction, our minds not really registering any of it.
Personal circumstances change priorities, and repetition brings ennui to even the most exciting things after a while. Sports extravaganzas on TV no longer impact my life quite so emphatically as they once did. Now I barely manage to take in the first half of the early games. I don't know which teams are playing and I don't have the fixtures either. I just don't have the time or inclination to follow events, players or teams anymore.
But when I see images that always appear to accompany spectacular footballing events - colourful stadiums bursting with fans and noise, players celebrating goals in exuberant orgiastic frenzy, skimpily clad fans flaunting national flags and colours, nattily-dressed experts and ex-players debating on the refereeing, the goals that were allowed or shouldn't have been, the penalties, the offsides, the play-acting, the absurdly bizarre new rules etc etc, I'm reminded time and again of the old adage, "The more things change, the more things remain the same."