WE SHOULDN’T be sat on here today scouring the internet and pretending to work. It’s Thursday. It’s a UEFA Cup night. By rights we should be sat in the sunshine at a pavement cafe in Lisbon now, Superbok in hand. Or laughing as the daft lads put dobey in the fountains in a square of a beautful unspoiled medival walled city on the Danube.
I’m gutted. I had got used to the excitement of planning jollies across the continent, looking at the logistics of flying from obscure airports at the dead of night to cities well off the beaten track. I had got used to playing legendary names and being high on expectation.
Look at tonight’s fixtures in the first round, first leg: Newcastle go to Tallin, the cheap beer capital of the Baltic, West Ham host Palermo, Blackburn are in Salzburg and Spurs, the jammy gets, are in Prague to play Slavia. Ow, that should be us!
It is hard to overstate exactly how big, how significant and how exciting the UEFA Cup was for Boro. Two years in succession, those storming last gasp four goal Houdini acts and the place in the final at Eindhoven have raised our profile and our expectations beyond recognition.
It brought its problems: too many games put a strain on the team and a strain on the pocket and at times – the visits of Xanthi and Litex – the apathy was embarrassing.
But for those thousands that really engaged with the UEFA Cup experience, those who travelled away in high spirits determined to enjoy, it was an eye-opening odyessy into a dream world that has helped reshape their concept of fandom.
The pride at just being there for that first trip to Banik, the gathereing of teh clans at Villarreal, the passion on the whistle at Sporting, arriving from all directions to assemble a 100 club in Xanthi, the jubilation at scoring and the defiance under attack in the Olympic Stadium at Rome, the chest-bursting elation and volume at home to Basel and Steaua and the celebratory invasion of Eindhoven – these moments have redrawn the boundaries of our cultural experience.
And now we are back to the mundane bread and butter existance of the Premiership Thursday has become a painful void. I had ignored it as Newcastle battled through the Intertoto but now the competition has started in earnest again and blanking it doesn’t work anymore. Now the absence hurts. And I can’t bear the thought of the likes of Spurs having a good cup run and seeing the national media fawn over them as the UEFA Cup is suddenly transformed into a competition of giants with real credibility again. I’m supporting Sevilla all the way.
BORO fans won support from the European Parliament’s powerful Petitions Committee yesterday after the draconian treatment of Boro fans at the hands of Rome’s tooled up Carabinieri was discussed.
The Gazette have driven the campaign that has seen condemnation at ministerial level and Roma charged by UEFA over failing to control their fans – but support from the European Parliament could yield lasting legislative action that is a long term benefit for football fans every where and ordinary citizens of all countries in Europe who travel to Rome.
It is easy to be cynical and say fans have always been brutally treated abroad and nothing will change, or that Roma will get a slap across the wrists at best or that, well, no one died and it is in the past now so why bother.
But for the Eurocrats this is not just a parochial football matter. It is not about Boro fans being made to sit on buses for a few hours or ladies having their lipstick confesticated. It is about serious systematic breaches of the European Charter by a member state and about the political rights of free movement and legal equality across the union being undermined.
One of the most significant facts that have been highlighted is that Italy has not signed the multi-lateral treaties on legal unity. That means in effect that foreign citizens have no right to judicial redress or compensation for any breaches of Italian law. There is no mechanism for civil action against the Rome police for instance, nor for criminal injuries compensation.
It is in this area that the European Parliament are likely to act and if they do then the Boro fans who refused to accept this gross perversion of the European ideal and stood up for their rights will have done the whole of Europe a great service.
* Full story in today’s Gazette.