One more week to go, hosts still lukewarm on Euro
30 May 2008
VIENNA – Football is everywhere in Austria and Switzerland. But one week before the kick-off of the Euro 2008 football tournament, overall football fever failed to materialize.
In Austria’s host cities Vienna, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck every flat surface seems to be covered in UEFA or football-related advertisements, with local businesses trying to get in on the hoped-for month-long football party.
Switzerland is taking its time with getting the enthusiasm going, with Swiss football federation president Ralph Zloczower saying that he was convinced the football spark would ignite with the tournament’s kick-off.
"We don’t have a (football) fever, that would not be good. I would say we have a healthy temperature," Zloczower was quoted as saying by Sportinformation Zurich.
"But one must not forget that not everyone enjoys football and not everyone must go crazy about it," he added.
A 600-square-metre flag, depicting an outline of the country divided up inside by the flags of the 16 qualifying nations was floating at the foot the northern Swiss Rhine Falls, Europe’s biggest waterfall this week to mark the country’s role as host nation.
Swiss artist Beat Toniolo’s installation should have signalled the mounting excitement as the tournament is drawing closer but opinion polls even indicated the opposite.
The latest poll for the Sonntagszeitung newspaper said just 41 percent of Swiss had any interest in the event, compared to 70 percent two years ago.
More than 82 percent said they feared nuisances like increased noise and traffic, 92 percent could not be bothered to take any time off for the matches.
Least enthusiastic were the French-speaking population in the south-west of the country with Geneva one of the venues.
"I’ll probably watch it, but at home on TV," said one bus driver typical of many.
Bucking the trend, Geneva resident Jean-Luc, dropping his son off at school said that he was "definitely" going to watch the opening game at the fan zone on 7 June.
A few flags adorn the four Swiss city venues of Geneva, Basel, Berne and Zurich, other Euro 2008 paraphernalia is low key so far.
Swiss fans have been swift however to snap up the tickets for the national team’s games, and Switzerland’s matches were among the first to be sold out, suggesting there is a following out there.
And Geneva’s sizeable Portuguese, Spanish and Italian communities are expected to generate a lively atmosphere, which might replicate the spontaneous partying the Brazilians triggered on the city streets during the 2002 World Cup.
But with one more week to go, organisers still hope for a last-minute boost and euphoria may still set in with the start of the tournament.
[dpa / Expatica]