MIDWAY : Euro mania

Shashi Dhungel

As various teams battle out each other, Euro 2004 will reach climax on July 5, when the winning team lifts the trophy. But thousands of miles away from Portugal where the matches are played, people, regardless of their ages, watch soccer every night and talk about it in the morning. Euro 2004 has dominated all circuits. The daily-dose of political demonstrations, which earlier attracted people by droves have been stalled as though to give way for soccer. In fact people care a fig about anything happening around them other than Euro 2004.

Football frenzy has swept Nepal as never before. Jerseys of favourite teams are a rage with fans, newspapers allocate separate pages for it, and restaurants and hotels have come up with viewer-friendly business packages to mint money out of it.

I cannot remain unaffected by Euro mania as we eat, drink and sleep football. Every night, cuddled in a couch at my friend’s place, we make sure we do not miss a single match, sometimes bursting out in annoyance and sometimes bubbling with joy. Watching Euro 2004 is now a part of my life. It’s only when the exuberance spills over to the neighbours when shrill shouts disturb them in the dead of the night that we head for some serious trouble. But we are hel-pless, we can’t stop ourselves when the goal kissess the net. Youngsters do not miss a match else they would be the odd-man-out the next day, when the event is dissected in the company of friends.

The joy of watching football through the night is something I do not like to miss at any cost. The reason: rare as the quadrennial event is, it generates unsurpassed passion among the viewers. And as usual, the excitement of watching a match extends much beyond the final whistle, when it will be discussed with enthusiastic friends and sports admirers, reliving the moment all over again. And I am not alone in doing this! The Euro this year had so much of surprises in store for football fans. Big teams bit dust even as rookies and lesser squads prevailed over all out favourites. As the ball rolls to the D-box and I wait with baited breath for the finishing touch, no wonder that hopes are dashed when the ball grazes the upper end of the cross bar and flies out and about. Worse, who would have thought that Beckham would squander a penalty? Driving down the memory lane, I recall that it was the 1990 World Cup, which lured me into this game. One and half decades later, the excitement has only skyrocketed. Only that I wish I were in Lisbon on for the final game.