Many of the best scenes from the European Championships have so far originated from an incident of misfortune, extreme bad luck. This is karma reversed, are the footballing gods who control the fate of our beloved game repenting on themselves?
The opportunity for Patrik Schick’s spectacular goal from halfway versus Scotland came from Jack Hendry’s bad luck in his skilful, yet opportune, shot firstly rebounding off the crossbar and secondly falling into Czech Republic possession. As for Schick’s strike, it is sublime on every level that matters; vision, technique, audacity, satisfying net bulge and crucially, meme content. Sweden’s Emil Forsberg is flying with his three goals elevating the Swedes high although his scoring streak began courtesy of an error of judgement by Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, conceding the penalty from which Forsberg’s goals momentum was born. Before England’s win over Croatia, a dark mood lingered among some surrounding the Yorkshire Pirlo’s resurrection, thus further prolonging Great Jack’s banishment in the wilderness of the substitutes bench. Yet, the feelgood factor of Raheem Sterling bundling the ball home came from a positive, forward-thinking burst from the promising student of Bielsa-ball himself, Kalvin Phillips.
Further fermenting the pleasantly unique scent of Marceo Bielsa’s wonderfully madcap playing style was North Macedonia’s Egzjan Alioskiinitially missing a penalty but by burying his rebound upheld the theme of a tournament on tipsiness for unpredictability, fortune forever following misfortune. This has absurdly maintained itself to the level of Wales celebrating their narrow defeat by Italy, the phrase “victory in the jaws of defeat” most apt.
Is this karma contorting itself to new degrees, suddenly ambushing its audience with a fright before sticking a smiley face on and producing a lollipop as a reward for us being brave?
Joachim Low must feel like a dizzy yo-yo on steroids. He skies high on cloud nine of conquering Portugal by a ‘barnstorming’ Robin Gosens and treacherous wily old wild card own goals anonymously appearing amongst Pepe and Ruben Dias.
Then Low spends Germany’s game against Hungary repeatedly scrambling for a grip on any cloud, with as much control of proceedings as a blindfolded child desperately swiping to burst a pinata, cruelly loitering out of reach. Germany eventually did fall but only to the muddled and murky land that is second place. Relief therefore given their complete heroes to zeros fall from grace during the humiliating World Cup elimination by South Korea three years ago. Even France playing Portugal had a fateful feel to it, the constant toing and froing of rewarded penalties that gave a sense of the referee officiating a tug of war in the centre circle as 22 footballers ran, chasing a ball (or Kylian Mbappe) around him. Then a defender’s sin was a striker’s repentance. Cristiano Ronaldo breaking records whilst predictable still does render it any the less jaw dropping.
How Karim Benzema enjoyed the repayment of his lengthy exile from the international stage. Seeing Renato Sanches and Paul Pogba prowl around midfield with such control, guile and gusto also brought back eerie Euro 2016 vibes.
Emotion has also been a prominent guest throughout the group stage. Denmark’s progression to the last 16 in the aftermath (9 days) of Christian Eriksen’s distressing and shocking cardiac arrest, where doctors say his life was nearly lost. Imagine this occurring to anyone you know, a young, fitand well-liked sportsperson nearly gone forever by playing the game they love. Spectating, we found it traumatic enough. Imagine playing. Or personally knowing Eriksen, the human anxiety over his wellbeing a result of what appears to be an amicable person, respected playmaker reminding us of that these athletes are footballers second and human beings first. A complete lack of human, player or fan consideration was a key reason why the wickedly capitalist Super League flopped so spectacularly, the scheme falling harder on its face than a dozen crepes landing following frivolous flips on Pancake Tuesday.
Uncertainty, anxiety, frightening flashbacks and mind games all take a toll. Not to mention the mental health drain. Denmark and Finland were then demanded a mere hour later to return and resume play. By bloodthirsty capitalists who shrugged and complained at this trivial mishap daring to interrupt their feast of finance, meaningless match after meaningless match.
An unceasing slaughterhouse of player welfare, fan value for money and pointless group games devoid of fizz, snap or meaning. Yet for all that Denmark understandably lost their first two matches, as a neutral the biggest emotional high of the tournament has undoubtedly been their 4-1 blitzing of Russia that saw them advance. The ways in which number 10, Eriksen’s shirt number was heralded by players and fans was both memorable and befitting of a carnival atmosphere, the stadium awash with noise and passion, centred on celebrating both a person and a player who is still with us. Never has Andreas Christensen, never mind his astounding long-range scorcher been so universally cheered.
Footballing-wise, this was also hugely impressive. Eriksen is a supremely gifted midfielder and his years at Tottenham frequently revealed his many invaluable traits.
The jewel that sparkled brightest from the array of hotch-potch signings (funded by Gareth Bale) in 2013. Eriksen’s assets include deadly (in their reliability as well) set pieces, a supreme assister, passing that ranges from dainty caresses to rocket-launched Crossfield counterattacking missiles. And as for shooting. Well. Sniping finishes from mind-boggling angles, volleyed belters, to venomous free kick carnage, Eriksen’sdependable goals return has been a formidable resource and a common get out of jail card for his teams.
As well as his ability to deliver when it really matters, a recurring thorn in the side of the so-called “big six”, an understated yet invaluable Champions League conductor and often central to Spurs forlorn title chases. Internationally, it was a maestro hat-trick performance by Eriksen to demolish the Republic of Ireland and confirm Denmark’s 2018 World Cup participation. In his absence Yussuf Poulsen has emerged with cunning runs from deep and predatory finishing whilst Pierre-Emile Hojberg romps around the pitch even more energetically than before.
Kasper Schmeichel and Simon Kjaer have further proven themselves as leaders in both sport and life. The trouncing of Russia produced the biggest feel-good factor in football for a while, made possible by one of its most sorrowing days.
Perhaps these are all misguided coincidences, destined to happen regardless. In retrospect, for those skying sitters, scuffing wide, frowning at Gareth and Roberto from your relegated side-line perch, there is still bad karma at play. There always is, everywhere. Winning teams need a bit of luck. Equally, they must avoid or overcome bad luck. In life, don’t we all need a spot of luck? Would we really pass that exam without our lecturer dropping subtle question hints?
Among student life especially, we get to experience the happiness of being drunk by the grim reality of draining our bank accounts. Flatmates must cope with and accept both the likes of and dislikes of fellow residents. Take the perks of living with Monica Geller for instance. You have a squeaky clean flat but its cleanliness and your hygiene are monitored more scrupulously than Matt Hancock’s interpretation of hypocrisy. Superstition surrounding the number 13 and having the ballsy audacity to strut under a ladder surround the idea of karma.
To leave things not merely to chance but give all the cards to God or a roll of the dice. Why bother making independent choices when fate will inevitably stick its big nose in anyway? Throughout the pandemic government officials have rarely faced karma for rule-infringing. While Boris flaunts his really superb beer belly, politicians remain relatively unscathed for atrocious leadership and seemingly not knowing the meaning of hypocrisy, further increasing theworrying sense that a form of State elitism is growing. “Look down on those locked down plebs whilst we roam free, amidst our affairs and duplicity, pretending to run a country”. We can and should try to enforce karma and fairness especially with climate change catastrophe upon us, various national tensions at boiling point and more locally, QUB’s vice-chancellor having an outrageous estimated £500K invested on property. When or will karma catch up with these overly arrogant and frighteningly influential people and systems?
As for the football, a bit of frost sprinkled across a bitty atmosphere fuelled by injustice is what makes the tournament stupendously engaging, the barniest of barny happenings. An enormous, breath-taking new drama now premiering on an international scene, fleshing out multiple episodes across a month period… introducing VAR 2.0 (Netflix subscription required). Politically, karma is well overdue and necessary. Probably there are no cognoscenti humans who particularlytoy with fate on Friday 13ths yet those in power seem to have an abnormal ability to avoid proper consequences. Hmm. Or is this merely disguising the government’s complete incompetence, overall lack of integrity and continual blunders? What if and here’s a scary, almost incomprehensible thought, our government are greed-fuelled and out of their depth ‘goofballs?’
Karma in sport isn’t rooted as a notion. Despite this it is undoubtedly an arena surrounded and shaped by luck and fortune as well as emotion, skill, errors and referees. If the universal laws have been flipped upside down, personally I’mall for it. Luka Modric as a marauding left-back, Ronaldo and Pepe position swap for tactical reasons, anyone? Sure, we have already seen wild carnage in right back Kieran Trippieradmirably suited to left back (don’t tell me Gareth Southgate doesn’t take risks) and Man City’s best central defender Rodribewilderingly in Spain’s midfield.
Is this not unruly enough? Soak in the bedlam, drink it (and your alcohol or beverage if your hanging), bathe in the glorious unpredictability of Memphis Depay, find your Irish self thunderously belting out a boisterous rendition of Italia’s national anthem. Embrace the hope of karma as you would a long-lost tabby cat, the fact that being kind and having the craic are in fact good vibes. Beyond this tournament, we can only hope the tipsy-topsy, unreadable enigma that is superstition, karma, luck and fortune make themselves as well recognised at ministerial level as at various sporting events. From Whitehall to The White House, there is a cacophony of those due a substantial slice of karma.
On Tuesday evening (29th June) Gareth Southgate’s England side delivered a spectacular performance netting a 2-0 victory over Germany, who have been consistent in defeating England over the past fifty years. It may be the case that a major trophy is truly coming home.
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