Kris Fernandes is a FIFA accredited freelance writer based in Toronto. He has been actively involved in spreading the love of the beautiful game in Canada and abroad for several years through administration, media coverage and coaching. He also covered the 2006 FIFA World Cup live for CBCSports.ca with the popular journal series, "A Canadian in Germany". Contact Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org
ZURICH - It has been a non-stop circus since I arrived in Europe a week ago and my last entry was completely rushed ($18 Cda for one hour of internet use!), but now I have some time before Greece vs. Sweden to get all caught up.
I arrived into Zurich yesterday and was immediately blown away at how much hype surrounds the tournament here. If you read my 2006 World Cup blog for CBCSports.ca, you may remember I wrote about the train station in Cologne and how Adidas created a stunning picture of their players across the roof of the station. I didn't think the Swiss could possibly top that for Euro.
Well they did.
Coming up the escalator to get onto the main street your eyes pop open and your jaw drops as you witness the Adidas starting XI: eleven 60-feet high, precision crafted player replicas huddled together. Made of what seems to be hardened plastic, these statues are an absolutely astounding sight to behold.
Featuring Philip Lahm, Angelo Charisteas, Patrick Vieira, Karim Benzema, Christian Chivu, Andreas Ivanschitz, David Villa, Michael Ballack, Tranquillo Barretta, Robin Van Persie and Petr Cech, each player is tailored to the max including personalized soccer boots, earrings, facial hair, and in the case of Cech, his head gear. I will post pictures in the upcoming days.
Pumped up after that scene, I decided to try to obtain a ticket for the France-Romania match that was in town and headed over to the stadium. Tickets for this match were going for over $200 Cda and after watching that ridiculously boring 0-0 draw, I was happy I saved my money for another game.
I met three English-speaking locals who noticed my white Canada soccer jersey (I have to say soccer because you see a lot of Canucks wandering European streets in hockey jerseys) and they invited me out to join them. I never did get their names, but boy did they provide me with some brilliant memories of Zurich, which is a much more organized, charming, and livelier city than stuffy Geneva.
They brought me out to the UEFA fan zone down at gorgeous Lake Zurich to watch the Italy-Holland match and I was very impressed with the fan centre. They had large boats docked with big screens, dozens of ethnic food huts, beer gardens galore, and hordes of rides and games to play. In the water, small projectors blasted light shows into water spray, which made for quite a unique visual display.
The shock Italy's 3-0 loss was huge, to say the least. Many Italians reside in Zurich (Italian is one of Switzerland's four official languages), and they were visibly devastated by the result. The French and German speaking Swiss had a few laughs and along with the Romanians belted a loud chorus of "ciao, ciao Italia" that did not stop for hours after the match.
I am going to the fan zone now to check the Sweden-Greece tilt before taking off to Basel Wednesday to attend the highly anticipated encounter between Switzerland and Turkey. Let the gong show continue.