I find it important to specify that I wrote this article on Wednesday, before the Europa League final took place, between Eintracht Frankfurt and Glasgow Rangers. Actually, I wrote this article a few hours before kick-off. Therefore, I could not predict the final result and who would be this year’s Europa League winners.
Almost a decade ago, the Scottish club from Glasgow entered administration, which is a business procedure consisting in the appointment of accountants who will manage the club’s finances in order to prevent it from going bankrupt. This led to Rangers getting relegated to Scotland’s third tier competition. Prior to this sad event, the closest a Scottish team ever got near to winning any European trophy in the 21st century was when Rangers lost the UEFA Cup in 2008. Ten years later, one can only see it as miraculous for this historic club to not just be back in the Scottish top flight, but also be fighting once again for European silverware in Seville, last Wednesday against Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Germans have a story of their own to tell, too. The club was back in a European final for the first time… in 42 years! In 1980, the German team won its first and only European trophy under Friedel Rausch when they lifted the UEFA Cup (previous name for the Europa League). Since then, it had been so long since Eintracht even reached the final quartet of any European competition. Their motivation to go all the way erupted through the roof after their quarter final tie, when they managed to eliminate FC Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate.
With those two stories in mind, one can only imagine how much this final meant for everyone: the players, the managers, and most importantly the fans. The build up for this game was simply surreal whichever way you looked at it. However, it did remind me of a quote I once read from a Roman poet who is known for writing satirical poems about the society he lived in back then:
“Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.”
It is safe to assume that the quote is self-explanatory concerning the author’s perspective of how the Roman society lived then. As long as food and mass entertainment were guaranteed to the public, citizens would not bother themselves with other issues, such as ruling a country and declaring wars.Fast forward to today, we can say that not much has changed over the course of the last two millennia. Instead of going to see gladiators battle each other to the death, we attend concerts and football games in stadiums. In a certain way, I can understand Juvenal’s perspective stating the superficiality of the human race, making it forget the bigger picture which would allow politicians to pass any law they wish to as long as they do not touch a person’s most basic needs. Then again, are some of those needs really that basic?
Being a strong football fan myself, I can tell you that football means more to me than just sheer entertainment. It provides a sense of belonging. Belonging to a social group, a bigger family, a way of life, representing hope in a certain way that there will always be something to fall on when things get rough. Whether I look at it as a fan or a player, football is an escape that I find necessary in my life. The same applies to music. It brings a sense of unity amongst people who have so many differences between them. Most people would disagree with me, but I view football as an art.
Art does not care about your religion, your race, your gender, your nationality, your political views. It is there for everyone to enjoy. If you think that it is just a sport, then I am certain that you have never attended a game in the stadium. I am certain that you have never witnessed 50,000 people screaming and chanting at the top of their lungs for a whole 90 minutes. I am certain you have never seen two complete strangers hug each other with the same passion as blood brothers would when their team scores. The flags, the jerseys, the chants made for managers and players, the face painting, there is an entire culture behind everything that is lived in a stadium and outside of it, within the city walls.
For people like Juvenal, mass entertainment might seem superficial and pointless in the grand scheme of life in comparison to politics and other social causes. He might be right under certain angles, but I say that football plays a role just as important as other forms of art in preserving culture and bringing people together. Football has the same goal as art and music: to enjoy and spread life with all those around us.
I will leave you with a song written by Scottish band Saint Phnx a week prior to the final. They are Rangers fans, yet the song calls to both fans, reflecting how the fans feel about their respective team reaching this great stage.
“Now you've got giants at your feet You'll hear the call of history You gave us something to believe We follow you, so make us dream” - Make Us Dream by Saint Phnx