Euro 2004: The Biggest Sporting Event This Spring

In June and July of this year the world’s second biggest football (soccer for those of you who think that a game where you carry the ball in your hand is called football) tournament will happen: Euro 2004. If you thought the hype surrounding the Super Bowl was big you haven’t seen anything yet… The 31 matches at Euro 2004 will be watched by a television audience of (according to the official UEFA website) seven billion viewers!

That’s 226 million viewers for each and every match. These numbers are driven, not only by the viewers in Europe, but also by a global audience who have a love of watching some of the best football teams in the world play each other. Football is a truly global sport.

This year the tournament will be held in Portugal. A massive programme of investment and rebuilding will see Portugal open its doors to the footballing world with eight pristine stadiums. The cities of Braga, Guimaraes, Porto, Aveiro, Coimbra, Leiria and Lisbon will all host matches, while down on the south coast, the towns of Faro and Loul‚ have banded together with their own Algarve stadium.

Euro 2004 will take place between June 12th and July 4th 2004. The 16 teams will be divided into four groups of four teams each. The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarter-finals, with a knockout system in force from that stage. Your author attended a match for the Euro 2000 tournament and can assure you that the atmosphere is more like a carnival than a sporting event, that is, until the whistle blows and the game starts. Then the atmosphere is like a serious football game with a carnival in the background.

This year sees the introduction of a newly designed ball to the championship. Officially launched on the eve of the Final Draw in Lisbon at the end of November, the ‘Roteiro’ is the result of a 42-stage manufacturing and packaging process that produces a high-tech ball with a circumference of between 685 and 692 millimeters (standard deviation figures not available) which tips the scales at 440 grams of panels; the carcass including the bladder and a smidgen of air and chemical components. Roteiro was the name that Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese navigator and discoverer, gave to his ship’s log-book. To represent the globe, the Roteiro has been designed in a blue reminiscent of the sea along with an aqua metallic color to represent the reflected color of the sea in the sky with silver lines to signify the system of longitude and latitude co-ordinates.

Heart-throb footballer David Beckham seems to like the ball a lot: “The new ball reacts well. It seems to dip a lot, which is good news for me and other free-kick takers. It even sounds better when you put your boot to it. I think it’s great to kick and it’s going to be a great ball to play with.” True words of wisdom from Mr. Beckham.

So, if you can’t get your hands on tickets to the Euro 2004 competition, subscribe to the tournament on cable, watch the matches and get yourself a Roteiro football to replicate all the moves you’ve learnt from TV. For those without cable, I’m sure you’ll be able to watch various antics on the Baker lawn this summer performed by those who took my last piece of advice!