What Are Your Memories of Your First European Championship?

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.

8 thoughts on “What Are Your Memories of Your First European Championship?”

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  2. First memory was Euro 1996 when I was in Croatia visiting for the first time after the war. That tournament was also Croatia’s first after independence. I don’t remember much from that tournament outside of the Croatia matches, including a 3:0 victory over Denmark which was shown on TV at least 4 times haha. Also I remember the final where everybody who I was watching with was cheering for Germany.

    The success of Croatia at Euro 1996 and World Cup 1998 is really what made football the #1 sport for me and those tournaments increased my passion for it. Because of this, I enjoy international tournaments much more than club leagues/competitions (maybe because I don’t support a club in the “top” leagues). I’ll watch the Euros or World Cup religiously while I skip over majority of the Champions League matches for example.

    After Euro 1996; I didn’t watch any of Euro 2000 because I don’t think it was televised on TV in the US, but I watched every match from Euro 2004 & Euro 2008.

  3. First Euro I followed was Euro 2000.

    Interesting moment regarding England as that was Kevin Keegan’s only tournament as national manager. The irony of course was that England beat Germany in the group stage and still failed to get out of the group, in fact Germany didn’t either.

    The final was interesting as France won the tourney by beating Italy on the now defunct golden goal by David Trezeguet. France didn’t even win their group.

    I remember ordering the semi-final between Holland & Italy on PPV (dark ages) and witnessed Holland fail miserably in the penalty shootout in front of their own supporters against Italy.

    1. Holland – Italy was interesting. 2 missed penalties in the normal time and Italy playing with 10 men. Sometimes you just know that it won’t be someone’s day and that day wasn’t the Dutch’s.

      England’s performance was extremely pathetic. Keegan had no clue @ all.

      1. Keegan literally said I have no idea what I’m doing.

        Which has been England’s mantra since 1966 for the most part.

  4. 1988: it was a privilege to see the Dutch win the title. They were quite lucky, I should say, in the opening game but they were deserving champions. They were simply the best. Plus the fact that only 8 teams in the tournament made it more enjoyable .

    People said that the Oranje was the team of the future after they won the tournament, but they didn’t realize that the team would lose Arnold Muhren (who retired) and the team would self-destruct in 1990 World Cup. England, Ireland, Italy and Germany ended up building their teams and became successful in 1990.

    IIRC, Mancini finally scored his 1st goal for Italy after 14 caps in the tournament and unleashed at a reporter who had been criticizing him before. To be fair, despite a great scoring record for Il Samp, Mancini only scored 4 times in 36 caps.

    Best match of the tournament: West Germany vs Holland in the semifinal. Because what happened on and off the pitch. The final was also memorable: watching the joy of Gullit scoring the first goal, van Basten’s goal “the accuracy of the century” and van Breukelen saved Belanov’s penalty and seeing “The Sphinx” Rinus Michels

  5. My first European Championship was Euro96. I was working in Buenos Aires and a co-worker had purchased tickets the previous year. He had six matches, three group and quarter, semi and finals. He offered me my choice of three matches…I could go to the three group or the run up to the finals…duh!!! I took the final three matches which included Germany v Croatia at Old Trafford, Germany v England and Germany v Czech Republic at Wembley.

    I flew from Buenos Aires to my home in Dallas, kissed the wife and then flew to Manchester. Seeing a match at Old Trafford was a dream come true, but I think I enjoyed the pub at City Centre following the match just as much…fans from different countries all getting along and enjoying the atmosphere. It was really amazing considering that there was an IRA bombing just the week before.

    The next day we traveled to London and had a couple of days off. I had been to London a couple of times previously and so I didn’t do the “touristy” things…instead I took in a couple of days at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

    Attending the Germany v England semi-finals was amazing…the history between the countries created a tremendous atmosphere. I wore my USA national team jersey and benefited from many free pints at the pub before hand as the English fans couldn’t believe that a “yank” could be interested in football. Especially after finding out that I had seen so many of their heroes play in the NASL (Moore, Hurst, Best, Banks, et al). The match itself was amazing, right through the PK’s. We had great seats…about 12 rows off the pitch.

    The final between Germany and the Czech Republic was historic in that Oliver Bierhoff had the first “golden goal” in a FIFA competition to win the championship for Germany. Even in defeat the Czech fans were fantastic on the train ride back to our residence, singing and carrying-on.

    My return trip back to work was less than memorable. Eight hour flight London to Miami, an eight hour layover in Miami (where English is a second language), followed by an eight hour flight from Miami to Buenos Aires.

    All-in-all the total experience was amazing…I will remember the camaraderie as much, if not more, than the football.

  6. The 08 Euros were what really got me into footy. I played a bit in high school and stuff but watching the Euros with some friends (who were just occasional international fans), I became the most passionate footy fan I know. I cheered for Germany at this tournament like my friends, but when Fernando Torres scored the winner…it introduced me to Liverpool Football Club. I haven’t looked back since

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