How tournament teams are dealing with Euro 2020 boredom

Scrabble and wedding DVDs have been switched for cinema and cricket… how international teams have managed to avoid boredom at summer tournaments ahead of Euro 2020

  • International teams have often been bored while at summer tournaments 
  • Jermain Defoe watched Wayne Rooney’s wedding DVD at the 2010 World Cup 
  • This year, England have a cinema and cricket pitch at their St George’s Park base
  • Germany forward Kevin Volland has reportedly brought backgammon with him 

For several years, Marcus Allback was tasked with arranging Sweden’s base for any international trip or tournament.

‘If Zlatan, for any reason, wasn’t part of that squad,’ he explains, ‘we could almost walk from the hotel to the arena.’

But when Ibrahimovic did travel, Sweden would erect fences, find a bedroom hidden from prying eyes, and keep key details secret from hotel staff. ‘It was crazy,’ Allback says.

Marcus Allback has revealed how Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s presence created mayhem when he travelled for the national team squad for tournaments

Seems a doddle compared to the lengths teams have gone to this summer. The need for Covid-secure bubbles makes security simpler. But it also means entertainment has to be in-house.

The danger? Another stint in a ‘luxurious prison’. At the 2010 World Cup, England’s players grew so bored in Rustenburg that Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney resorted to watching the whole of Rooney’s wedding DVD.

Before this squad arrived at St George’s Park, two FA staff reportedly worked full-time to make it feel homely. An outdoor cinema, cricket pitch, and a press conference area that resembles a beer garden. It’s not quite Euro 96, when Gareth Southgate enjoyed games of Scrabble.

Jermain Defoe was so bored at the 2010 World Cup, he watched Wayne Rooney’s wedding DVD

Gareth Southgate played Scrabble at Euro 96 but has a cinema and cricket pitch for Euro 2020

Scotland’s Andrew Robertson welcomed team-mates with a hamper that included shortbread and Irn-Bru, several Wales players brought their virtual F1 Drivers’ Championship to Baku. Having transported steering wheels and pedals to hotel rooms, it was time for sightseeing: they ‘raced’ through the streets of the Azerbaijani capital recently.

Germany’s Bavarian base, meanwhile, has been adapted to recreate the conditions of their 2014 World Cup victory. ‘We want to awaken a spirit,’ national team director Oliver Bierhoff said. In Brazil, Germany were surrounded by sandy beaches. Here, it’s all forest and ‘big windows’. Everything is deliberate — the short walk to the canteen, even the ‘creation of a marketplace style area’, according to one report.

Young players are rooming with elder statesmen — Jamal Musiala is with captain Manuel Neuer, who also asked for a Padel tennis court. Forward Kevin Volland reportedly brought backgammon. Fortunately, there are some football pitches, too.

Germany forward Kevin Volland has reportedly brought backgammon to help with boredom

Symptoms of Tournament Fever can be harder to spot when games are spread to Europe’s four corners. But in south London on Wednesday, it was clear: the Grealish Variant had spread to five-a-side in Vauxhall.

One team in retro Nottingham Forest shirts included a big lad wearing blue and green socks. Yep, rolled down below his calves, with some agricultural shinpads pressed into his astros.

Read the room, Gareth. 

It’s not a Knysna mutiny yet, but you know the world is healing when tales of French tournament tension begin to emerge.

All this pre-Euros harmony — Karim Benzema welcomed back, a squad to make you drool — didn’t sit quite right. So chapeau Olivier Giroud, whose comments about a lack of service are said to have offended Kylian Mbappe.

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