Why the Euro Cup matters to Canadians
The 2012 Euro Cup soccer tournament, which is being held in Poland and Ukraine, has just about finished a week and a half of play and though it is a European country exclusive event, the major sporting spectacle has relevance to Canadians in more ways than one.
First off, as you may have observed while scrolling through a phone book in towns like St. Paul or anywhere else in Canada, we live in an immigrant nation. Though not all European, a vast amount of settlers ventured across the Atlantic Ocean to pursue a new life while also bringing their hard to spell, and usually hard to pronounce, last names with them.
People from Europe, and all across the world for that matter, still move to our country and if they avoid the lure of the centre of the universe (Toronto, Iím looking in your direction), they wind up everywhere from Nova Scotia to the Yukon Territory.
International tournaments such as the Euro Cup are always a treat for sports enthusiasts, especially soccer fans, but itís also a chance for people to embrace their ancestral heritage, be proud to stand during a national anthem that isnít O Canada, and cheer a nation that was once called home.
Needless to say, Iíve been addicted to watching this yearís tournament and not just because Ireland, where my family is originally from, qualified to play in it. Getting to watch world class players put on their home jersey and try to win for their country is a sight I wish I could see more often, and with the Irish team there, itís been an emotional week and a half.
The results for the Republic of Ireland didnít pan out as well as I, and many others, had expected. The team was drawn in a group with Croatia, Italy and the incumbent world and European champions, Spain. The Irish lost its first match against the Croats and needed at least a draw against Spain to keep any hopes of progressing to the second phase of the tournament.
The night before the game against Spain, I prayed for the first time since 1993 when I wanted a Sega Genesis for Christmas. I wasnít necessarily praying for Ireland to beat Spain, a feat that would take an astronomical performance from the boys in green, but rather for the Irish team and fans alike to believe they could get a result or die trying.
In the second half of the match, with Spain looking comfortable with a 4 Ė 0 lead over Ireland, something happened in the crowd that doesnít too often at professional sporting events. Instead of completely dismissing the team and cursing them for losing and subsequently crashing out of the tournament early, the Irish fans started singing and continued to do so long after the final whistle was blown.
The fans chanted the chorus to ďThe Fields of Athenry,Ē a folk ballad set in the mid-17th century during the great potato famine. There was nothing political about it. There was no hatred towards the opposing team or its fans. It was a moment of devotion and pride for oneís country.
Whether youíre from Ulster, County Cork or an Irish Canadian like myself, those several minutes sum up the heart and courage of the people from the island, which has been passed on to the various generations of Irish people.
Iím a Canadian first. I was born in this country and Iíll die here. Iím extremely proud of where Iím from, where I live and the benefits this country bestows on its people who work hard at what they want to do. With that said, Iím as Irish as they come. From my fair skin, to the Gaelic spelling of my name, to my enjoyment of quaint pubs with small stools, Ireland will always hold a place in my heart.
My old man immigrated to this country from Belfast when he was in his early 20s and my mom immigrated to this country from Prince Edward Island at about the same time (just kidding, mom). Whether your family is Irish, English, Ukrainian, Greek, Italian or have friends who are of European decent, the Euro Cup is a chance to show you care about your background and exude some passion for a place that has help define what you believe in, win or lose.
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