OTB Meets London’s Euro 2012 Fanzone Host, Soccer AM’s Max Rushden

Over the years, my ever-decreasing knowledge of football has made interacting with other men difficult. I have a few generic facts under my belt, but these are dated at best. Typically, I just easier to rattle off a vaguely football-related statements like, “Yeah, but what about Kanu?â€? and then nod along as if the words these men say mean something to me.

This is what I do when I speak to Max Rushden, presenter of Soccer Am, although I decide not to mention Kanu. I have no idea if he’s still playing or indeed if he’s ever played. On second thoughts, perhaps he’s a team. I can’t be sure.

Anyway, Max is chatting to me about an event he’s hosting at East Village in Shoreditch. He’s inviting football fans to forego the small screen of their crowded local pub or living room/bachelor pit to watch the games in a more fan-friendly environment. For £10 he’s offering entry, a pre-match meal (which, he hints at, is going to be themed on food from the country that England is playing – Swedes anyone?) and a drink to help attendees get in the mood.

“We don’t want to take it too seriously,â€? he says. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. There’ll be guest interviews with players, actors and bands. There’s going to be game analysis, a great atmosphere and some general Soccer Am silliness.â€?

“A sing-a-long—is what it says on the poster,â€? I add.

“Really?â€? Max says. “And I’m leading this, am I?â€?

I nod. “That’s what it says.â€?

“Right.â€? Max sighs, unprepared. He explains that he’d really like to recreate the atmosphere of Euro ’96, a tournament that he describes as easily the best European championship in his lifetime, when England played their now legendary games against Scotland, Holland and Spain.

“When you look up Stuart Pearce’s penalty against Spain,â€? Max says, “the hairs just stand up on the back of your neck.â€? He must sense that I know nothing. “Look it up on YouTube.â€?

Of course, even somebody as out as touch with football as me remembers these games. The whole country seemed to be wrapped up in the excitement of Euro ’96. But this time around, the tournament seems to have been a bit overshadowed by the Olympics. I tell Max, but he doesn’t agree with me.

“I don’t think it’s a problem,â€? he says, “people are just going to watch the football and then the Olympics. If anything, it could just make people more in the mood for a major sporting event.â€?

He could be right, but what are England’s chances of wining this one?

“The problem is that, unlike in the World Cup, all the teams are very good,â€? Max explains. “Unfortunately, we’ve got a really tough group, but nevertheless, we have a fairly decent chance, I think. A certain amount of luck is always needed with these things, as Spain proved in 2008. It’s about the ups and downs, but it’ll be lot of fun, very casual and laid back, so come down!â€?

Football Fanzone Euro 2012 starts at East Village in Shoreditch on Friday 8th June. Advance tickets for this are available from www.footballfanzone.net.

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