Why so Serious?
Posted on June 9, 2012 4:12 pm
Well, I’m back… and from Ukraine. I will try to write one post per day of my adventures here, I will talk about football sometimes as well if I feel like it .
I’m on a train in the middle of the Ukrainian nowhere at the moment. In one of these cars that we imagine when we think of the Trans-Siberian line. A Tsarist relic with carpets that were once elegant but now are dirty and ragged after layers and layers of shoes passed over them, with hard bunk beds and fat Russians drinking vodka and tea here and there.
I’m off from Kiev to Lviv. I had to take the train at 4 am (which actually ended up leaving 5:30 after several delays) because of the Organizing Committee, which was absolute chaos in the delivery of tickets to journalists. In principle, it was announced that those who had accreditation cards could travel for free. In practice, as often happens here, things were much more complicated. There were only 50 places for journalists in some select modern trains, and obviously, we all wanted to get some.
In addition, the Organizing Committee took three days to put the tickets kiosks in place, and when the time came, it was absolute chaos. We had to write our names down on three waiting lists, which then they proceeded to lose and start a new one. When they were finally able to start with the reservations, they became a kind of joke about national stereotypes. A Chinese guy put his name on the list but 7 more came down in order to get tickets. The Ukrainians would try slip through the line whenever they could, and their only explanation was “this is Ukraine.” The railway company employees did not speak English and a trembling volunteer was our only hope to be understood.
At some point, a Chinese journalist announced that there were no more free tickets and decided to pay for his. He spent some 3500 hryvnas (350 euros), but the truth is he was ripped off. After he left, they again started to delivered free of charge. I got all I needed but one, Lviv, so I had to go to the station at 4 am, to take the tsarist train.
It sounds chaotic but, you know what? It was fun. In general, in Europe people take things too seriously about the organization of major events. The media, especially in some northern countries, hope that all tournaments were Germany 2006, the masterpiece in terms of organization. The point is that, in that case, only three countries could organize a tournament, and football is not about that.
I think that, sometimes, they should see things with a little more perspective. True, Ukraine is not a model country, far from it. Trains do not arrive on time (but neither in Italy), the economy is not exactly booming (but unemployment is way lower than in Spain), racism exists, no doubt (but I once was on the London Underground with West Ham fans who chanted “fucking Jews” to Tottenham fans), there are problems of hooliganism (but Donetsk good citizens tremble! The English are coming!).
The advantage of tournaments is that they provide a window for the world to look what is inside these non-modelic countries. Expose their shortcomings and allow the international community to realize what happens in them. None of their problems should be forgiven, and must be evidenced by the international media. But they shouldn’t just see the speck in their neighbor’s eye. Of course, it is not right to set a major tournament in ridiculous places like Qatar, or totalitarian dictatorships like Syria, but I see no problems as to stage them in football nations like Ukraine, Poland, Russia and, of course, Brazil. Barcelona completely changed its face with the Olympics, why wouldn’t these countries also have be given the opportunity?
And from a reporter standpoint, the adventure is always welcome. If some want to stay in their five star hotels, and write columns with complaints and grievances, their problem. Tournaments are to be lived on and off the pitch.