Euros 2021

10 football films to get you in the mood for kick off

When many people think of films about ‘The Beautiful Game’, a few, (mainly mediocre) movies tend to spring to mind, usually headed by John Huston’s 1981 folie de grandeur Escape to Victory. As you may recall, the film cast Sly Stallone, a noticeably chubby Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow and real-life football legends Pelé, Osvaldo ‘Ozzy’ Ardiles and Bobby Moore in a ‘soccer’ themed homage to The Great Escape (1963). But there are a surprising variety of other motion pictures about the sport and some are well worth checking out. Of course, there are some real stinkers as well, most recently the Sky Cinema Original Final Score (2018), a lame attempt to

Why do footballers equate health with virtue?

Last Tuesday, the great footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, captain of Portugal, removed two bottles of Coca-Cola from a table in front of him, and tens of millions of pounds of sponsorship money went down the plughole. Ronaldo was at a press conference for the Euro 2021 Championship, in which Coca-Cola had invested heavily – and, as it turned out, pointlessly. It took Ronaldo just seven seconds to make his point: that regular Coca-Cola is stuffed with sugar and if you drink too much of it, or any sugary soft drink, you’d better book an appointment at the diabetes clinic now. Having hidden the fizzy drinks, Ronaldo held up a bottle of

Taking the knee isn’t the best way of showing black lives matter

As a black football fan who grew up going to matches in the seventies and eighties, I know more than most about the beautiful game’s troubles with racism. I can still remember my own club West Ham United being the first English Football League side to select three black players in their starting team on Easter Saturday 1972; and I can still recall, for two seasons in a row, a particular section of fans in the old west side stand ‘Sieg Heil’ saluting during every home game. Nowadays, racism in football is less obvious but it still exists – and it needs to be called out. But I’m convinced that

Euros 2021: England are easily the most boring side in the tournament

England 0 Scotland 0 Hungary 1 (Fiola) France 1 (Griezmann) It is remarkable how Southgate has sucked the life out of such talented players over the last two or three years The wonderful Hungarians almost took my mind off England’s lamentable performance last night and the usual stupid, self-serving, excuses from Southgate. England are easily the most boring side in this tournament. It is remarkable how Southgate has sucked the life out of such talented players over the last two or three years. Maybe we should hand out MBEs for any England player who can score. Scotland fought well and won every fifty-fifty ball – but then England consider themselves

Are England fans allowed to be proud of the St George’s Cross?

It’s starting to feel like the only flag you can’t fly in England is the England flag. Wave the Pride flag out of your living room window and your neighbours will gush. In fact, flying the Pride flag is practically mandatory in June, Pride month. Every town hall, school, bank and social-media site is draped in the rainbow colours. Such is the omnipresence of the Pride flag that it is actual headline news when someone refuses to wave it. For the second year running, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire has decided not to fly the Pride colours. The BBC was on this bizarre case pronto. ‘Anger as Pride

Euros 2021: Turkey deserved to lose to Wales

Turkey 0 Wales 2 (Ramsey 45, Roberts 90+5) Apologies to those of you who have been expecting my annual list of the world’s most loathsome countries, which I usually publish at this time of year. Various stuff has got in the way – not least this tournament. Once it is over I’ll get down to work – but as a taster, I’m happy to inform you that Turkey will be right up there, at number one or two. Thuggish, bullying, inept, humourless, Turkey. If ever a football team embodied the characteristics of its government, this is the one. What a pleasure it was to see them comprehensively outclassed by a

Gavin Mortimer

How Les Bleus united France by not taking the knee

For those who lean to the right and live in France, Tuesday night was magnificent. Not only did Les Bleus open their European Championship campaign with a 1-0 victory against Germany, but their boys defied expectation by not taking the knee before kick-off. The build-up to the match had been overshadowed by an announcement on Monday by the team captain, Hugo Lloris, that France would follow England and Wales in taking the knee. Cue 24 hours of controversy. On social media, in TV studios and in the National Assembly it was ‘La question du jour’. Should they or shouldn’t they? The issue proved as divisive in France as it has in

Euros 2021: can Scotland beat England?

If you’d like some idea of how Scotland’s long-awaited return to an international football tournament is going, consider this: it took less than an hour of play before the image of goalkeeper David Marshall leaping, despairingly, into his own net in a doomed effort to stop the Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick scoring a goal from the halfway line became a meme trending worldwide. Marshall can now be found soaring from the top rope of wrestling rings, swinging through the air like Spiderman, sprinting past Usain Bolt to win the 100 meters, and, of course, you can relive what is already the goal of the summer to the Titanic soundtrack.  There’s

Euros 2021: Hungary’s lockdown lesson for the world

Hungary (Orban 1, 90) 2 Europe and the WHO 0 Now THIS was a proper game of football. Fractious and furious, bitterly contested in front of 61,000 magnificently partisan Hungarians in Budapest. Scarcely a mask in sight and certainly not a knee. Orban has had enough of lockdown: Hungary took us back to the old world, that world we quite liked. The Magyars, roared on, fought for everything, inspired by Laszlo Kleinheisler (a Danube Swabian? One of Hungary’s ethnic Germans, persecuted of late and often expelled?) They were undone, cruelly, by a deflection and a penalty, having had a goal of their own disallowed. How I hoped they might win,

France is divided on ‘taking the knee’

Until this month ‘taking a knee’ has not been a French phenomenon. When the Black Lives Matter movement spilled out of America twelve months ago and spread across the world, France was one of the few Western nations where it failed to make any headway. In a bold television address at the time, Emmanuel Macron declared that there would be no statues toppled in France. Meanwhile, the leader of the far-left France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, rubbished the idea of ‘white privilege’. The French looked on in bemusement as Britain seemed to lose the collective plot, hauling down statues, denigrating Churchill and then, when the rugby and football seasons started, dropping to their

The secret to beating Croatia

First things first: don’t get your hopes up. England don’t have a bad team. In fact, this year they’re pretty good; not quite the ‘golden generation’ of 2006, but good enough to win the tournament. That very fact ought to sound a note of caution: we’ve been down this weary road before. After the year we’ve had, we could use something to celebrate, but another crushing disappointment after foolishly allowing ourselves to believe would be too much.  With that in mind, it would be jolly sporting of England if they didn’t win their opening game too easily. No 7-0 demolition jobs for us, thanks; what we need is a cagey,