Euro Cup Is About More Than Soccer

Spain's national soccer team supporters react during the live broadcast of the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships quarterfinals match between Spain and Italy. Cesc Fabregas scored the deciding penalty giving Spain a 4-2 shootout win over World Cup champion Italy and a spot in the European Championship semifinals after a 0-0 draw.
Just back from Europe where everyone was obsessed by the Euro Cup. Their football, our soccer, is bigger than ever and when the Europeans tangle for a title, the connection between sport and nationalism is unmistakable.

The Spaniards won the championship, finally shaking off the mantle of a team that never lives up to its promise. But the games leading up to the championship is where the interesting story lines were.

When the Russians made the semi finals, more than 100 private jets packed with super-rich Russian fans flocked the Vienna airport. And when the Russian national anthem played and their fans unfurled an enormous flag, you could almost feel the stadium shutter in fear.

Perhaps even more telling was the Germany-Turkey game. Many a European was less than enthralled with the idea of a Muslim, albeit mostly secular Muslim country vying for the cup. They lost in the semis.

The Euro Cup was all about football? Not so much.