Here it is, Euro 2012—taking place in the wonderfully open-minded climes of the broken Soviet Empire.
The players, having finished their club seasons, and are now encouraged to engage in a bit of good, old-fashioned nationalistic competition after taking part in club teams' exotic league competitions that are part of the new-world idea that traditional ideas of nationalism are a thing of the past.
The international game is fighting a battle it will ultimately lose.
In the end, international football means little else but a massive payday for business groups that work behind the scenes. Which is, of course, part of the reason the tournament is where it is in the first place. Huge amounts of money change hands in aggressive capitalism, as the wrangling and double-dealing go right up to the tournament and beyond.
Aside from the rampant corruption, a feature of international football for decades, there is, of course, the fact that football support is actually not so nation-based anymore. In this technologically driven age, there is the opportunity to devote oneself to a team from as far away as anyone could imagine. If you desire to support Galapagos F.C. in the Eastern Pacific Premier League, you could certainly find a way to do it.
If that league existed.
The point is, these old-world competitions struggle for validity because of the growing intellect of the world at large. The illumination of consciousness. The evolving realization that old ideas of "race" and "nations" will indeed continue to fade.
People no longer care as much about the international game as they do about the club game.
This, in a big way, is because the tournaments have frequently been terrible and full of all sorts of controversy and ridiculousness. There was still hope for me before Japan 2002 that it had all just been coincidental over the years—the strange results, bizarre refereeing decisions and so on.
The run of South Korea in that World Cup underlined the sorry state of things, and then who could forget the shocking and faintly disturbing image of Italy hoisting the World Cup trophy in 2006, after the Serie A had been embroiled in a bribery scandal.
Should they have even been at the tournament? Not to mention the charming Marco Materazzi and his words in Zinedine Zidane's ear.
The Euro is the slow death of the international game, played out in front of a dwindling group of supporters. It will probably be some ridiculous decision or moment of lack of technology that will mar the memory of this tournament.
Or maybe not.
Could this be the tournament that saves the bloated, afflicted beast that is the international game? Could this be the tournament that turns it all around in the eyes of the football world?
The foul spectre of racism hangs over the tournament already. Also, the terrible criminal underworld of the host nations and the way it services the major cities of the more highly powered competing nations. A true conundrum.
Football, though, can give us a moment in which we can forget all of that, even a few moments. That is why we love it. This tournament has the electrifying players, the tactically astute coaches and the apparent cream of UEFA's refereeing pool.
There is a chance we will witness something special.
The continuing validity of the international game is again at stake. As always, it will be interesting—though, as always, the result will be meaningless once the European club season restarts. Such is the lot of the international game now.
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