What are your memories of your first European Championship?
For me, it was UEFA 80 (or Europa 80), as they were called back then. I was 10 years old, and — to be honest — I don’t remember much from the tournament itself. I remember watching as many games as I could on television, but my most prominent memory from the 1980 European Championship is the large, oversized white programme for the tournament, which I read religiously over and over. Somewhere, there’s also a fading memory of the Europa 80 stickers from Panini, too.
The programme was my first real introduction to foreign languages (other than Welsh). The 1980 European Championship was held in Italy, and the programme itself was written in several languages, including English, so it gave me a chance to learn different words.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that I don’t remember much from the tournament itself. UEFA Euro 80 only featured eight teams, and the entire tournament was over in just 11 days. England would have been the team I watched most closely, but they got knocked out of the first round. They tied Belgium 1-1, lost against Italy 1-0 and then beat Spain 2-1. Their third place finish in Group B wasn’t enough to make it to the third place playoff, or the final.
Although I followed UEFA 80 closely, it seemed to be a tournament that was far lower down on the priority list. For example, even in the crowds in Italy were small. Only 11,430 turned out in Italy to watch Belgium beat Spain. As you can see from this video, the stadium was practically empty, and even the players didn’t look that enthused either. It only seemed like the games involving Italy were well attended.
England’s team included accomplished footballers such as Ray Wilkins, Tony Woodcock, Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Ray Kennedy, Phil Neal, Kenny Samson, Terry McDermott, Glenn Hoddle, Ray Clemence and others. They were managed by Ron Greenwood.
A lot has changed since the 1980 European Championship. The tournaments are much larger, more significant and far more exciting. They are a better, smaller version of the World Cup. The quality of football on display is far greater than in the World Cup that is spread so thin among great teams, very weak ones and average sides.
What was your first European Championship? Share your stories below.