The anticipation is almost palpable. The football fraternity’s wait is almost over. Euro 2012 is about to start in less than 24 hours. But even before the football extravaganza starts, there’s a plethora of off-the-field news that’s shifting the focus away from the game.
We look at some of these non-sporting issues ahead of the start of the tournament:
It’s one of the biggest threats to the tournament. There’s fear that racism and violence could disrupt the smooth running of the event.
Even before the tournament has started it has already claimed its victims -- Theo Walcott’s family has refused to travel to attend games. Former English player Sol Campbell and the UK foreign office has warned fans from the minority non-white community not to travel to Ukraine.
Italian maverick forward Mario Balotelli has threatened to kill anyone who racially abuses him and walk off the field.
Italy may be one of the title contenders, but they need to keep their head in the game. That though will be difficult, especially with the cloud of match-fixing hanging over the heads of certain key members of the squad -- goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Leonardo Bonucci.
Italy’s coach Coach Prandelli has said he’s ready to pull his team out of the European Championships, if that would mean protecting the image of the game.
Will Italy be able to play freely with this cloud hanging over them? It remains to be seen.
First French officials and then British ministers decided to boycott all games in Ukraine over human rights concerns. The issue relates to jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who it is feared is being ill-treated by the present government.
Euro 2012 may be expected to boost Ukraine's sex industry, but campaigners are worried since the country has the highest rate of HIV infection in Eastern Europe. Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN -- best known for its topless protests – has warned that the tournament could see a rise in sex tourism and is campaigning under the slogan "Ukraine is not a brothel". Mindful of the problem, European football's governing body UEFA has also launched a campaign urging people to use protection.
A consumer group has held that some of the official team jerseys for Euro 2012 are lethal since they contain lead, nickel and other toxic substances. The European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, found a “worrying levels of chemical content" in six of the nine tested shirts -- those of Spain, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, France and Italy.
Portuguese and Dutch fans better beware as their uniform contains nickel. Polichs fans are no better off – their official jersey contains organotin, a compound that prevents the smell of sweat, but unfortunately is also poisonous to the nervous system.
Spanish and Italian uniforms have been found to have a banned substance, Nonylphenol, which can cause low sperm count and glandular problems.
Ahead of the start of the tournament, Ukraine had a major problem. It’s stray dog menace. The number of feral dog attacks – which reportedly hit 2,800 in Kiev alone in 2010 – was likely to become a nightmare with the huge influx of tourists. The government allegedly started culling the stray dogs, leading animal welfare groups to protest. These campaigners accused the Ukraine authorities of using illegal and inhumane methods to kill stray dogs and cats in Ukraine, including poisoning. They have now stepped in sterilise the strays. But will sterilisation work? After all, dogs don’t use their reproductive organs to bite.
After such a heavy dose of controversies, it’s time to end this session with a pill of humour.
Football fans went into mourning when Paul the Octopus died for none thought there could be another with such psychic prowess. Apparently not.
There are a number of animals vying to be Paul’s successors.
Ukraine has a ‘Soothsayer Hog’, a pig with ‘psychic’ powers, who will predict the outcome of the games in Kiev. Ukraine also has Fred the ferret, who resides in the town of and will hope to pick the winning team. Meanwhile, zookeepers in Krakow have chosen Citta, who will sniff out winners from a selection of melons. Germany has Nelly, another elephant, whose football skills would determine the winner. Paul the octopus or Yvonne the cow could also become the new oracles for the German team. Of course, Britain also has a contender in fray: Nicholas the llama.
Whose animal instincts will be spot on? Well, your guess is as good as mine.