End of August. Time to update one of my all-time favourite football cartoons. If I remember correctly, it dates from 1992, but it never seems to become obsolete. You just have to update the text of the first three panels of the strip with what you see in the television news, and you can be sure that the fourth one is as valid as ever. In the continuous flow of unpleasant news, the start of the new football season is always a most welcome interruption, and a moment full of fresh promises, all over Europe.
‘Season’ is a curious word to describe the rhythm of the championships. Very appropriately, football has borrowed its time frame from the world of the theatre: each season is both a drama in itself and a long sequence of individual dramas, with their unity of time, place and action, with heroes and villains, intrigues and narratives, story twists and surprises. The season has a more or less solemn opening, one or several climaxes, regular cliff-hangers, and, inevitably, a dénouement at the end. And the World Cup or continental championships may easily be compared to international summer festivals such as Edinburgh or Avignon, where new trends are spotted and stars are born.
In European politics, too, there will be drama enough this season. With the climax being reached, as seems suitable, towards the very end of the season when an unprecedented wave of Euroscepticism will be likely to dominate an election whose results will no doubt strengthen the extremes in a parliament that already has a legitimacy problem.
As usual, the member states will vote on four different days between 22 and 25 May. In many of them election turnout will decrease even further than the already low levels of 2009. I would not be surprised if in some countries more people bothered to watch the European Champions League final on Saturday 24 May than go to vote that same weekend…
The ‘European throw-ins’ will try to accompany the 2013-2014 seasons, both in the political arena and on the football pitch, musing on noteworthy parallels or overlaps between the two.