The sheer mindless idiocy of choosing Ukraine and Poland as UEFA have done for the European finals was duly and hideously exposed when the Russian and Polish fans set about each other before the game between their countries in Warsaw.
The Russian hooligans have already disgraced themselves in the streets with no help on that occasion from the Poles. And to think that FIFA in their own wisdom, or perhaps something more sinister, have given the 2018 World Cup to the Russians. So much, as one has emphasised in the past, for the so-called campaign to kick out racism.
Racism as we have alas seen in the current European Championship is enshrined in Russia just as it is in Poland. Black Dutch players were abused in training in Poland. Italy’s Balotelli was similarly jeered. As for Ukraine, whose chief executive has made a pathetically tit for tat apology of an apology, trying to equate the Terry-Ferdinand case with their racist excesses in his own country, he might have saved his breath.
Not least because, as we know too well, Oleg Blokhin, the manager of the Ukrainian team and its former star winger, is the very embodiment of racism, his ludicrous public abuse of black players viciously on the record. Dick Advocaat, the Dutch manager in charge of the present Russian team, has told us that, when he managed Zenit St Petersburg, he did not dare to sign a black player for fear of the abuse he would get from the fans once he lined up for their team.
Though Qatar and its ridiculous choice to stage the 2022 World Cup is a mere extreme case of suspected corruption, you do wonder quite how the racist Russians managed to acquire the preceding World Cup. Dirty work at the crossroads? Nothing has been proved, but then, given the endemic corruption and palsied investigations of FIFA, could we expect it?
Meanwhile, the Euro tournament springs seemingly endless surprises. We seem to have seen the demise of Dutch football, beaten in both their opening games, with even – or especially – Robin Van Persie firing blanks, until he scored that spectacular late but futile goal against Germany, with his right rather than his favoured left foot. The Dutch attack, despite all the good busy work of Inter’s Wesley Sneijder, and the presence of Arjen Robben and his deadly left foot, has lost so much of its menace, while the defence has been liable to costly mistakes.
Fernando Torres alas, was cruelly exposed again when brought on for Spain against Italy, missing two and arguably three very good chances. It seemed almost cruelty to dumb strikers to send him on at all, just as it had seemed so strange in the last World Cup finals, though then he did have the excuse of not yet having recovered from persistent injury. You wonder what strange kind of obsession the Spain manager, Vincente Del Bosque, has with a player who is so plainly now a sad liability.
Yet poor Torres is by no means the only famous or once famed player who has been prone to error. Who could have imagined Cristiano Ronaldo, prolific as ever in the Spanish championship, failing even to hit the target against Denmark, when through all alone? And what of the costly fumble by the Czech keeper, Petr Cech, which gave the Greeks such a soft goal against the run of play, though, admittedly, Cech may have been confused by the close presence of a defender?
On the positive side, what an astonishing resurrection of Andriy Shevchenko’s seemingly dormant international career with those two supremely well taken headers against a disappointing Sweden? It was a bold gamble by Oleg Blokhin, that still seemingly unashamed racist, to pick him at all, let alone at the start, but how well such confidence was justified.
At home, the demise of Harry Redknapp at Tottenham emphasises what a cruelly unpredictable game football can be. One moment it seemed that Harry after, against apparently heavy odds, clearing his name in court was in line to take the England role, the next he is forced out of a Tottenham team which he had regenerated, ensnaring Bale, winning superbly in Europe against both Milanese clubs. The next, Daniel Levy, the chairman of Spurs, has refused anything like the four-year contract Harry likely to get when the England position was also a possibility, and out Harry goes. Hard not to think that, at the bottom of all this, despite the various contractual ramifications, lies a deep, mutual dislike between the two men.