In the first part of his Euro 2012 memories series, English writer and Warsaw resident David Ingham takes a look back at his best moment and how it all started
Oh Kuba, is it really two years since that glorious summer? That was a great time for us both wasn’t it? You became a national hero, silencing Russia with a curled left-foot pile driver into the bottom corner that united a nation, however fleetingly, in the belief that maybe, just maybe, Poland could pull off something special for the first time since 1982. I, on the other hand, had a UEFA press pass and was getting paid to go to matches, go out on the town every night, and then write about my experiences in a daily newspaper column.
There were so many great days during those glorious three weeks, but legendary commentator Dariusz Szpakowski undoubtedly got it right when he shouted in to his mike “I said, I said, I said [it would happen] and this is the moment!” as Poland’s captain Kuba Błaszczykowski whirled away in celebration after THAT goal. And it was, wasn’t it? No matter what occurred over the next three weeks, this was the moment that myself and millions of others will never forget.
I watched that match in the Warsaw Fan Zone, and I still recall the way me and my American mate reacted as the ball hit the back of the net and a 100,000 drunken fans exploded in unison. For the next minute we were Poles and just like everyone else there we went absolutely mad, with me pointing and screaming at my friend “I told you! I told you!” and him grinning wild-eyed, whilst holding his hands up in the air like some mad Methodist preacher and shouting “Aaahhhhh!!!” as my pre-match optimism seemed to have been proved right.
The tournament itself had kicked off four days earlier on June 8th on a stormy, pressure-filled evening in the Polish capital. Yet the extreme optimism I felt in the fan zone the night of the Russia game was in short supply, as the minutes ticked towards the opening match between Poland and Greece. Sat as I was, behind my coffee-stained desk in the quiet of a near empty office, as just a few miles away hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to drink and be merry.
As sports reporter for the local English-language paper I’d expected to be out there enjoying an event that I’d be writing about on a daily basis for the past 12 months. My boss on the other hand felt I was best served editing copy for the next edition, and it didn’t matter anyway, he told me, as we’ve got a TV in the office so you won’t miss anything. Great.
Yet, what I expected to be one of the most depressing experiences of my life, actually turned out to be one of my abiding memories. With the 6pm kick off approaching fast myself and two of my then colleagues Gareth and Remi, who hail from Wales and Nigeria respectively, crowded round the TV to take in the spectacle. And for the next two hours we ignored our bosses pleas to keep down the noise (as he totally failed to grasp the enormity of the occasion) while going through the full gambit of emotions as first Robert Lewandowski headed in Błaszczykowski’s 17th minute cross to put Poland in front, a goal that drew blood from Remi as he accidentally punched the TV in celebration, before Dimitris Salpingidis exposed familiar failings at the back to give Greece a deserved share of the spoils following his 51st minute tap in. And that’s what international tournament football is all about, the extreme highs and lows, that can unite people from all around the world for a few weeks every even year.
I still had to work for an hour or so once the final whistle went but as I switched off my office computer for the last time in 9 days, I felt that familiar surge of excitement that courses through the veins of any real football fan on the way to the match. It was on, it was here and I had front row seats.
Thanks to David for taking the time to write this post – more to come in the series soon.