The UEFA Euro 2016 is slowly moving towards the end and the very last kick can not come soon enough for many people. That is a statement that seems to be accurate for a lot of football fans as well this time, especially after the match between Croatia and Portugal. There were enormous expectations to this match because some of the biggest stars in European football play on these two teams, but it turned out to be the first World Cup/Euro-match since 1966 without a single shot og target. The first shot came after 116 minutes, just four minutes before the end of the 30 minutes of extra time. The goalkeeper gave a return that resulted in the second attempt on target.
I heard many disappointed and even angry people because they had been seduced by the expectations media had helped to fuel, but maybe it’s not wise to build expectations up to an unrealistic level?
There was a Norwegien slogan a few years ago saying something like this: Life is more fun for people who like football. Not to be arrogant, but it didn’t appear to be a lot of amused people when Croatia and Portugal played. Incidentally, I spent the evening watching an episode of Foyle’s War, which is a series I enjoy almost as much as Sherlock Holmes. I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Speaking of expectations, the Norwegian national team created a few in the 1990’s when our golden generation qualified for two World Cups and the UEFA Euro 2000. The highlight came when our homegrown heroes defeated Brazil in the 1998 World Cup. That created some impossible expectations and many people couldn’t understand that it wasn’t likely to happen every time we tried to qualify.
The man who scored the winning goal against Brazil, Kjetil Rekdal, was the first Norwegian to play in yellow football shoes. Real men had always worn black shoes with a couple if white stripes. Anything else just wasn’t right. It’s common with all sorts of fancy colours today, but when this player put on his yellow shoes the commentators went bananas. Rekdal didn’t start the championship well and of course the shoes had failed us. He was too concerned with looking good and the shoes were far too yellow. Today you see all the colours of the rainbow on the field and people would probably think there was something wrong with you if you insisted on the classic black shoes with white stripes.
What about footballers with pink balls? That may not be as controversial as it once was because there are teams that play with pink jerseys, such as the Italian clubs Juventus and Palermo. I don’t know why, but maybe they want to make pink gender neutral?
This reminds me of how complicated we tend to make things. There was a lot of controversy when Lego started selling Lego Friends a few years ago. I don’t think this happened when another brand made Hello Kitty building blocks, but many saw Lego Friends as problematic because it was aimed specifically at girls. The attitude today is that there is no difference between girls and boys, so they need gender neutral toys. I haven’t researched whether or not science confirms this, but what I have observed suggests that it’s not that simple.
I have been to a few kindergartens and after school programmes as a parent and teacher, and I get the impression that girls in general are not interested in classic lego. According to the old mindset boys like objects, while girls prefer relationships. There seems to have been a belief in education in Norway that this barrier will disappear if we employ more men in kindergartens, but these men won’t make a difference if they don’t actively try to change things, and maybe gender neutral isn’t going to work magic after all. It may seem to work in kindergarten, but it could become a problem in schools. Girls may get many benefits from their interest in communication, but this is not going to help them in mathematics.
The old mindset encourages boys to become adept in mathematics and girls in languages. I think it might be wise to encourage girls to play with objects other than Barbie, Hello Kitty and My Little Pony. These are great for role play, while Lego develops problem solving skills (lateral thinking), creativity, coordination, 3-D thinking, but it also involves a great deal of communication and cooperation when children build something as a team.
I have a feeling that girls play more with lego if the blocks are more “girly.” I bought a lot of lego when my daughter was the right age for it, but she didn’t show any interest in the usual colours (I believe black, green, red and yellow are the most common). She prefers pastels, in particular pink, and if that’s what it takes, I don’t see any harm in it.
My daughter just had a birthday and two of her gifts were a pink football and a scooter. She played before too, but she feels especially proud when she rides her scooter to the neighbourhood football field. That sounds like success to me, although some would argue that pink as a girly colour is the definition of prejudices.