Book Review: Euro Summits: The Story of the UEFA European Championships 1960 to 2016 by Jonathan O’Brien
The European Championships are held every four years, in the even years between World Cups, and is the pinnacle of the national competition for members of UEFA. French Football Federation’s Secretary-General Henri Delaunay had first muted the idea for such a tournament back in 1927, but it was not to see the light of day until 1958 when seventeen countries entered the qualifiers.
The first Finals were held in France over five days in July 1960 with the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, France and Yugoslavia lining up to take the trophy which at the time was called the European Nations’ Cup (it was not until 1968 that it changed to the European Championships). The Soviet Union made history by becoming the first winners, beating Yugoslavia 2-1 in the Final. Now a year later that planned due to COVID the sixteenth edition is played over the period of a month with twenty four teams taking part. It is a tournament bloated not just by the numbers taking part but by footballs current disease, commercialism and money.
Euro Summits: The Story of the UEFA European Championships 1960 to 2016 by Jonathan O’Brien details the story of the competition from that first held on French soil in 1960 to that in 2016, which coincidentally was also held in France. What can you say about this book? Well on the one hand this is a tournament by tournament analysis of the European Championships, with each edition given its own chapter. There has undoubtedly been a great deal of research that has gone into the writing by O’Brien, as outlined in the extensive bibliography (which extends to nearly six pages) with each match in addition to its summary, complimented by its match details (i.e. team line-ups, scorers etc.). O’Brien must have also spent countless hours watching match highlights to provide details of the major incidents of the games down the years, which inform his match summaries. Simply detailing match incidents can be a little dry, but O’Brien spices it up with some humour and adds interesting facts and quotes from players, managers and officials reflecting on their involvement in games past.
On the other hand however, a repeated feature of the authors writing is a constant criticism of the performance of the match officials which is so frequent as to become a distraction to the point of irritation. Further, it seems that O’Brien takes particular joy in putting down players with any sort of reputation and is evidently not a fan of Spain’s ‘false nine’ set-up, with his favourite penchant being any opportunity to put down England’s performances, players, coaches and managers, which borders on simply being biased. Perhaps O’Brien sees the book as a subjective, tongue-in-cheek analysis of the story of the tournament, if that’s his intention, then fine, but it did nothing to endear me as a reader to this book.
(Pitch Publishing Ltd, May 2021. Hardcover 448 pages)