8 differences between travelling to Euro '88 and France 2016
We’re about to hit the road for France for Euro 2016 and we can’t wait.
Despite Ireland’s poor showing at Euro 2012, when we equalled the record for the worst ever performance at a European Championships finals, we’re feeling wildly optimistic about France 2016. Recalling the heady days of summer 1988 when the Boys in Green took Europe by storm, put one over the Auld Enemy in Stuttgart, held the mighty Soviet Union in Hanover before bravely going down to the Netherlands of Van Basten and Gullit in Gelsenkirchen, there’s a lot to get the blood flowing this summer too.
Back then though, things were very different and travelling to West Germany for the tournament was an altogether different story. Here are 8 differences between travelling to Euro '88 and Euro 2016.
No low cost airlines
There was no such thing as low cost flying. If you wanted to fly to a ‘foreign’ country you had to either go cap in hand to the credit union or raid whatever savings you had. For most people it was their first time outside the country, or even their county. This year people will just have to open an App on their phones and with just a few taps of their fingers book a return flight, all for an affordable price. How things have changed.
Navigating West Germany for the Euro '88 finals was like visiting another planet. No Internet meant no Google Maps, so you had to look at an actual map made of paper, and you had to figure out what way was north. Sometimes you actually had to ask directions from real humans, with mullets and moustaches, who spoke in strange tongues…imagine that. No Internet meant no Google Translate, so you just hadn’t a clue what any of the signs meant and your best bet at communicating with the locals was speaking English slowly and with a German accent. This year you’ll be making your way around France, where you’ve probably been several times before. The French are a proud people and proud of their language, with the Internet available at your command, you'll be striking up conversations with the locals in no time.
No mobile phones
Want to call home from France this year? Roaming charges have been significantly reduced, so you can probably chat away with your family back home while you’re in the stadium. Back in Germany in ’88 you had to get your Deutschmarks at the ready, queue for the payphone and finally get connected to home. The thing was though, for the lads away on the trip of a lifetime supporting the Boys in Green, being hard to reach wasn’t such a bad thing.
In ’88, you probably used Travellers’ Cheques, which, for those too young to remember them, had to be ordered in advance from your local bank. These pieces of paper could be exchanged at certain outlets in Germany for Deutschmarks, the West German currency. These effectively just looked like random pieces of coloured paper with figures on them. It didn’t matter what their relative value was, because they were mostly used for buying beer. After which you were given handfuls of random coins to fill your pockets, which you would then carry home with you, where they would sit in a drawer, where they probably still are. At France this year, you’ll be able to walk straight into any delicatessen and know exactly just how much they're ripping you off for a croissant.
After the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 Margaret Thatcher banned standing in football stadiums in English football in an effort to combat hooliganism. It worked very well and in 1998 Uefa followed suit, mandating that all games under its jurisdiction to be held in all-seater stadiums. So this year at every game you go to, you’ll get your own seat. Handy for resting the legs and definitely safer for all concerned. At Euro '88 though, the terraces were all-standing and the craic on the stadium steps with the drummers and the costumes made for a carnival atmosphere.
Yep. Back then short shorts were in. Just what they were thinking, we’re not quite sure, but comfort was a big factor. All that traveling over land and sea must have been much more bearable when you could relax in your football shorts. Given the traditional summer weather Ireland gets, this was a rare outing for Irish football supporters' legs. Many Irish supporters returned from Euro 88 still peeling skin from sunburnt legs. We don’t think you’ll encounter too many short short wearers in France this time around, but if you do, they’re most likely hipsters.
Security lock down
France will be under a watertight security lockdown considering the recent events in Paris. Back in ’88, you could bring a sports bag full of cans pretty much anywhere without anyone batting an eyelid.
If Euro '88 can be remembered for any one fashion statement, it is the iconic ‘tache. It lead to an entire generation of Irish men religiously growing hair on their upper lips, whether they could convincingly do it or not. We’re not sure what the facial hair statement at France 2016 will be, but most likely, the beard will feature in some configuration or another.