The events of Euro 2012: You couldn’t make them up. Except, as it turns out, Uefa kind of did: European football’s governing body went and doctored some of the television footage of the European Championships, in one instance making it appear as though a German fan was crying over her team’s concession of a second goal to Italy, whilst in fact, she insists, she’d been crying over her country’s national anthem, which was played before the same semi-final.
Either way, of course, this fan’s judgement wants questioning, but this isn’t just another tomatoe-tomato situation. The issue here isn’t exactly one of integrity – that was out of the window when they started imposing countdowns to kickoffs on fans. It’s something more fundamental: once it’s known for a fact that the images of football offered up to the world are sometimes not true, how can any of it be trusted anymore? Did, for example, Mezut Ozil score a late penalty for Germany in the game where the tears flowed but didn’t really, or was that just something the producers came up with in order to keep the drama alive for another crucial ninety seconds? We simply can’t be sure any more. It would be wrong to try to be sure. You are wrong if you think you’re sure.
Uefa’s defence of this practice (honed enough to suggest they’ve had it prepared for a while, and thus, that this isn’t the first time they’ve played switcheroo with the picturoo…) is that it had doctored the video only in an attempt to transmit the full emotional impact of the game on fans in the stadium. Which really is quite a magnificent defence of lying if you look at it: “Yes, okay, we done a lie,” they say, “but this lie helped to tell the story of the truth, which is all but the same thing.” Are you saying it wasn’t a lie? “No, it was a lie.” Ah, I see. European football’s governing body came up with this line of argument – the governing body operates under these terms: remember this from now on.
And so football has at last become post-modern; a place where a lie is more truthful than the truth and, by implication, nothing is real. It’s been coming for a long time – the rest of the world actually entered the post-modern phase about forty years ago – but football has always been slow on the uptake. In retrospect John Terry’s Champions League final ‘did he play or has he just put on a kit afterwards and try to lift the trophy?’ moment should have been a clue as to what was about to happen, but we weren’t to know.
Now that we do know, everything must be reconsidered. It’s only logical. Manchester City’s last minute title win should probably be the first to go: two goals in two minutes to steal away the Premier League crown from the local rivals on the final day of the season: it seemed too crazy to be true! So it probably was. Think about it: do you actually know anyone who was there at the time? No, because no-one does, it was all CGI. How far back might this go? Was 1966, England’s one World Cup win, a myth popularised post-1991 to help monetise the newly created Premier League? In all likelihood: yes.
Even the events of the last week now demand to be reviewed with increased scrutiny. Gary Lineker might leave the BBC: too good to be true. Robin Van Persie gets a £220k a week salary offer from Manchester City after his first injury-free season in eight years: surely not. Manchester United moves all of its assets over to the Cayman Islands in an attempt to beat off some of the debt which engulfs the most profitable club in the world: no, this is the only one which is definitely happening; it’s real, it’s actually happened. It’s actually happened.
Other than the Manchester United thing, which has just become the only definitely real thing going on, everything in football is now open to doubt. And all because Uefa got too cocky, playing with the footage of Germany games: the only switched-on nation in Europe. Here we all were in the UK, ignorantly eating up the half-baked lies of a sport that had been making it up all along, but then Uefa tried it on with the Germans and went one step too far. But for this one underestimation, who knows how long before anyone else had realised what was going on.
Apparently there was more than one incident of Uefa “showing the human story” of a Germany game via a lie. According to the Guardian, “Germany’s manager, Joachim Löw, was shown teasing a ballboy during the first half of his team’s match against Holland, which struck German fans as bizarre, particularly during a tense encounter.” It turned out this had happened before kickoff. Uefa reckoned it hadn’t intended to mislead the audience and had deliberately used replay wipes before and after the clip, which clearly showed the event was not live. Cleary, Uefa reckoned. Once you’ve started actually making-up what’s going on, you probably start believing your own lies. Maybe it’s better that way.