In most traumatic situations, it’s helpful to zoom out. In a week, for example, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and England lost to Iceland, I recall a conversation I had with my father-in-law late last year when Vladimir Putin was advancing on Ukraine. As a committed historian, I asked him how long he estimated it would take humanity to zoom out and focus on, well, humanity.
“Oh, another 4,000 years.”
A German referee asked an interesting thing the other day. Our Berlin ‘freizeit’ team SFC Friedrichshain Internazionale had just battled to a 2-4 away victory, defending bravely in the second half after a 3-0 lead was pegged back to 3-2. When our fourth goal came in the last minute it was a moment of joy and relief. Afterwards, the referee asked our coach what we needed to improve on next season.
I write this just hours before the first game of the 2016 European Championships kicks off at the Stade de France in Paris.
I remember as far back at Italia ’90, when Paul Gascoigne’s tears in the semi-final against West Germany taught me about the emotional core of the game. But this new book of mine isn’t really about that.
I once travelled to Madrid to interview José Mourinho. On the way into Real Madrid’s training ground, the state-of-the-art facility designed by architect Carlos Lamela, I passed Rui Faria, Mourinho’s trusted fitness coach. I was ushered through the sparkly halls and into a room with the great man himself. I had been granted 15 minutes with Mourinho on one condition from his sponsor: we couldn’t talk about soccer.