Yeoh Siew Hoon got fed up of being left out, and gets
stuck in the sporting tournament that is sweeping the
29 June 2000
If your eyes are apt to glaze over and you have to fight
to hide a yawn when the words "Euro 2000" are mentioned,
join me and the rest of the poor, disenfranchised segment
of the world's population who cannot understand why anyone
can get passionate about the sight of 11 grown men chasing
a ball around a field, doing strange things with their
feet, only to put it in the net that has holes in it, for
So you may well ask, why am I writing about a sport
which not only confounds me, but confuses me in the tactics
used - for example, big, burly men rolling about in the
field, clutching their knees in agony when all they've
received is a gentle kick from opponents - Big Boys Do Cry?
Or big, burly men huddled in a line, clutching their
precious whatever-you-wish-to-call-it in anticipation of a
corner kick that may go askew and land a bulls' eye? Have
some respect for the opponents, guys, surely soccer is a
gentleman's sport and no one would aim below the belt,
However I am digressing. The reason I am writing about
this sporting phenomenon that is gripping Planet Earth and
Mars - yes, if they have found water on Mars, then there
must be life - is precisely just that; and also because I
can't resist a challenge.
I was dared by some male sporting types in the trade who
thought I should dedicate this column, the final week
before the finals on July 2, to Euro 2000, the event that
is keeping men in Asia awake through the nights and their
wives happy because they aren't next to them, snoring.
Plus, I am fed up of being left out.
First of all, let me congratulate the English on leaving
their mark on the game, not for sportsmanship but for
hooliganism. I'd also like to congratulate the people
behind the event for daring to say, why should we give the
next tournament to the English to host if they can't behave
on foreign shores?
To twist the knife further into the guts of the English
(it is a brutal sport), let me add that this is also Sports
Tourism Year for the British Tourist Authority. Not the
most auspicious of years for the English to lose so badly -
they were eliminated in the first round.
Secondly, let me commiserate with the folks at the World
Wildlife Fund who must be having sleepless nights,
wondering if global warming will be accelerated even more
with the global live telecasts of Euro 2000. A report in
the Bangkok Post said that electricity consumption in
Thailand surged to unprecedented levels this month, higher
than the levels consumed during the Asian Games in Chiang
Thirdly, let me draw a parallel between sports and
religion by relating to you a tale from one of the sporting
world's great legends, Gareth Edwards, Welsh rugby hero. In
the book "Rugby: Body and Soul", the author Bill Samuel
related an anecdote in which he was asked by Edwards to
help him write a speech based on the theme that rugby is
the religion of the Welsh.
The speech went one step further and argued that rugby
is the first religion of the Welsh. It quoted a minister
who was speaking to his congregration and who came to the
conclusion that rugby attracted a bigger congregation than
his. "First the place was full, even the gallery, long
before it was due to start. Secondly, everyone had paid in
advance for his seat. Thirdly, everyone was there on time.
Fourthly, they sang hymns beautifully ..."
Now even I know soccer and rugby are different games -
although both involve men and balls - but the point I am
trying to make is, there is something inspirational and
aspirational about sports that binds people together.
And tourism is really about the same thing - bringing
The fact that a lot of people make a lot of money from
the sports is beside the point.
The fact too that I am still awake writing this, and the
fact that, come hell or high water, I am staying up on July
2 night to watch the final outcome of this major
gladiatorial event is proof that even the most indifferent
can be converted.