- 17 Jun 08, 11:30 AM
Klagenfurt - 1,161 miles travelled
I don't know whether Uefa president Michel Platini is a big fan of Aretha Franklin but his organisation has gone crazy over the issue of respect during Euro 2008.
"Respect", the new slogan of European football's governing body, is on stadium boards, drink bottles, flags (I saw one thrown towards the pitch the other day by an irate fan, not much respect there) and T-shirts. I wouldn't be surprised if it was printed across the front of Uefa-issue underwear.
Uefa has seen Fifa's "Fair Play" and raised it. It wants to see respect between players, towards officials and to the national anthems of each country playing a match. They want to respect the game, diversity and the environment. How do I know? It says so on page 12 of the official tournament programme.
I was on a train the other day with several Uefa officials and the word "respect" came up over and over again like some ancient mantra. It all sounds grandly European and hugely optimistic. But Platini himself has already said he has been very happy with events so far, and on balance I cannot blame him.
Perhaps it's just me, but there seems to be a genuine, wait for it, "respect" between players at Euro 2008. So many times have I watched a player help an opponent up off the turf that I am starting to think that some kind of directive has been issued.
Of course, some refereeing decisions have resulted in herds of snarling players surrounding the man in black and screaming blue murder. But we have seen nothing like the haranguing and verbal abuse that happens week in, week out in the Premier League.
The lack of segregation at Euro 2008 has also made it necessary for supporters to show each other an awful lot of - you guessed it - "respect". For example, in Innsbruck on Saturday, there must have been a block of 30 Swedish yellow shirts smack bang in the middle of the Spanish end. No problem.
Walking to the stadium in Klagenfurt on Monday, I saw Poland and Croatia fans side by side, drinking their way through a decent amount of pre-match frivolity. Inside the Worthersee Stadium, there was a strip several seats wide segregating two areas, but it had Croatia fans on either side of it.
Yes, there has been taunting - witness the bonhomie of the Dutch chanting "Adieu Les Blues!" to surly French fans in Berne on Friday - and the occasional outbreak of trouble. But given the huge number of fans over here, I think that Euro 2008 has so far been a tremendous success off as well as on the field.
It is just a shame that six of the eight host stadiums average 32,000 or less. Fans desperate for tickets surely deserve better.
In other news, I'm starting to think that Austria is essentially a collection of towns, cities and villages squeezed into the few spaces not occupied by spectacular mountains and alpine lakes.
I hitched a lift with several Radio 5 Live staff, including former England manager Graham Taylor, from Innsbruck to Klagenfurt on Monday and marvelled at the awesome scenery. However, I couldn't ever fully relax and take in the vista, distracted as I was by a slight but unmistakable odour emanating from my feet.
Could they smell it but were too polite to say anything or was it just me being paranoid?
Laundry has now become my number one priority before heading to Salzburg. Once there, I'm hoping to do either a Sound of Music tour or check out the various Mozart sights. Any thoughts?
I'm not bothered as long as I don't have to do it in the company of the two Russian photographers sat in front of me at the moment wearing T-shirts bearing giant images of Guus Hiddink.
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