If football were really politics...
The final of the Euro (the football tournament) takes place this Sunday in the midst of the ongoing crisis of the euro (the currency). Unfortunately and perhaps inevitably, sport has been invaded by political and financial metaphors these days, most notably and distastefully in the quarterfinal clash between Greece and Germany.
Here's taking a look at what Europe's premier tournament would have been like if football were really politics:
1) Germany plays with all 23: Since the Germans "have done their homework early" and trained hard and well ahead of the tournament, they are allowed in a special ruling by the game's governing body (also known colloquially as "The Markets") to play every single match with all 23 players. Their dazzling Squad, this perfect blend of fantastic players ("The Motor of Europe," writes the sports press euphorically) easily produces all the way to the final. With three goalkeepers and 10 defenders in a 3-10-5-5 formation, it is virtually impossible to score against the Germans. In the course of the whole tournament, only Leo Messi (newly of Portugal fame -- more on that a little later) manages to dribble through the massed defense and score a single goal.
2) Spain team cut in half: There is certainly much interest in the Spanish. But despite entering the tournament as the defending champions on the back of a tactical masterpiece of fabulous, glitzy growth and seemingly limitless possessions (known by experts as the "tiki-taca" spending style), the Spaniards are cruelly hit back by a severe crisis before the tournament. The Markets dictate that they have been playing "above their limits," and kindly twist their arms to impose a 50% reduction of the team throughout the tournament. With the trademark Spanish style and flair still getting their 5.5 players through somehow (the players move back in with their parents, and training sessions before the tournament are held at the local Buen Retiro park), the team manages to get to the semifinals. To save more money, Coach Vicente del Bosque is asked to turn back time and is shoved in goal, thereby counting as 0.5 of a player. But there is only so much tiki-taka if you are 5.5 artists against 23 players. Out in the semis; back to sunny Spain.
3) France argues its way out: Thanks to the rather positive pre-tournament evaluations of the referees (who are grouped together in the organization called The Rating Agencies), and their admirable reputation on the continent, the French are allowed to start every match with 22 field players. However, bitter bickering about possession of the ball means that the French crash out in the semi-finals, losing to Germany. Back to Paris to look for unity.
4) England is different: The popular saying in Madrid may be "Spain is different," but in terms of Euro politics, England is definitely more different. And celebrating it. "Luckily we never joined the damned Euro" is the favored chant of the English fans. As something of an excellent outsider, England is permitted by the markets to play with 10 players plus David Beckham, for publicity purposes. As a further publicity stunt, England get to play onto a goal double the normal size if there is a penalty shootout. Two English players somehow contrive to miss the enlarged goal in a quarterfinal loss to Portugal. Back to the island to watch Wimbledon and eat consoling strawberries with cream.
5) Greece down to one: The plucky Greeks have their team cruelly reduced to just the one player: inspirational captain Karagounis. Outnumbered, they lose 54-0 in a new world record in the quarterfinal against the Germans. Karagounis complains in vain. This is dismissed as "Greek Theater" by the sports media.
6) Italy has a new coach: The Markets have imposed a new coach on Italy. His nickname, "The Technocrat," scares the hell out of the players, who are used to winning by the bare minimum anyway. In order to reduce various sporting deficits, they are asked to play with 8 players and without shoes. What the heck; they are Italian -- and still manage to get through to the quarterfinals with their innate tactical nous.
7) Portugal reduced to 5 plus Messi: The struggling Portuguese are reduced to 5 players by The Markets, plus the additional clause that "Cristiano Ronaldo must play with a blind-fold and not celebrate his goals in any manner." The contract forgets to ban him from protesting, which he does incessantly and justly because in this way he will never win the player of the year award. As a result of the complaints, a special sporting rescue package is agreed. In return for severe austerity and spending cuts in health and education, Leo Messi is loaned out to the team for the duration of the tournament. "He is from just across the ocean anyway," the international press justify this move. This saving package is accepted by the Portuguese people because they find heart attacks during matches significantly reduced with the worlds two best players in their team. And in terms of education, winning is the best lesson anyway for the young. The surprise of the tournament, the Portuguese reach the final, only to go down 40-1 to Germany.
Luckily, football is just football, and politics is politics.