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armchair centre back :: things that could actually happen in before the euro starts next week

what's the worst that could happen?
i'm surprised that the collective sound of soccer fans drumming their fingers while waiting for this summer's uefa euro competition to begin hasn't caused earthquakes. all the leagues are settled for the year, the europa [which is different than the euro] and the champions league trophies handed out. so now, we've switched gears to international competition, something that often puts us in the uncomfortable position of having to cheer people we'd advocated lighting on fire a few weeks earlier. so right now, there is little to do but wait. and wait.

many like to occupy themselves with the fine traditions of their ancestors: making up shit about famous people. the template for the famous soccer people stories is pretty simple: "famous player x is going to sign for crazy wealthy team y". in case you haven't been following: every famous player in the world is going to sign for one of the manchester teams, arsenal, chelsea, real madrid, barcelona, paris st. germain and bayern munich this week.

but among the bizarre flights of imagination, there are a few things that could very well happen in the next seven days. as it turns out, some of the really bizarre ones may be the most likely.

1. arsenal could sign jamie vardy. that sentence contains way more "wtf" than five words should be able to. vardy just capped off a breakout season as the most leicester city player at title-winning, hollywood movie- shaming, betting shop bankrupting leicester city. it's ridiculous to think that he'd leave. 

in fact, the only idea more ridiculous than vardy leaving would be the idea that arsenal manager arsène wenger would  sign a twenty-nine year old striker with only one really productive season under his belt. wenger has operated his team like a real life version of logan's run and he has a particular aversion to signing forwards at all. he also frowns on carousing among his players and vardy has been known to carouse. leicester city's owner reportedly had to have a word with the lad after he showed up for training on a couple of occasions still drunk. 

nonetheless, this little tidbit of information has blown up like a match tossed in an oxygen tank today and when you have so many sources suddenly jumping on a story, there's usually at least something behind it. in fact, the only time i can remember when such a sudden flurry of reports came to nothing was last year, when everyone was saying that arturo vidal had been lured to the premier league. by arsenal. 

2. manchester united could sign zlatan ibrahimovic. not to be outdone by his hated rival, united's new manager jose "you cannot kill the devil" mourinho will apparently sign an even older player for even more money. 

but really, this story is just being carried along on a tidal wave of plausibility. mourinho buys for short-term gain. mancheater united buy anything that's high profile. and ibrahimovic, infamous for his ego as much as for his incredible goals, belongs wherever the spotlight shines brightest. yes, he's in his mid-thirties, which in footballer years is like 102, but he still impresses every year. [i also suspect that he's like to end his career by silencing those who say that his greatness is overstated because he's reached his heights with paris st. germain, who are miles ahead of every other team in france's ligue un.]

3. sepp blatter could face charges [again]. blatter and his cronies are already griping about the pittance of a suspension they're being forced to serve as a result of running quite possibly the most corrupt organisation in the world, but now there's a brand new round of scandal that should make us all righteously angry. because it turns out that blatter and his closest allies may have also treated themselves to illegal bonuses to the tune of nearly $100 million. blatter's attorneys insist that these payments were fair compensation, to which i say, unless you personally stop an asteroid from crashing into earth, thus saving the planet, there is no work that is worth $100 million. fifa should just repossess that money and hand it out to fans at games all over the world. it would do more for the image of the sport.

4. france could implode. there is a mysterious [meaning suspicious] media blackout about what is happening in france right now, but suffice it to say, it is major. the past couple of months have seen multiple protests, growing in number and size, over president francois hollande's proposed reforms to france's labour laws. the changes would move france in the direction of the united states and united kingdom, where the balance of worker-employer rights is tilted more in favour of the employer. hollande's promise is that the changes will make france more competitive [with whom? -ed.] and encourage companies to hire there. with an unemployment rate lounging over ten percent, it's clear that some changes need to be made, but the hundreds of thousands of people who've taken to the streets are insistent that those changes should not be made by reducing the rights of those who are currently employed.

the threat of french workers to hold the country hostage until the government meets their demands is not one that should be taken lightly, especially as the country prepares to host millions of football-crazed tourists for the euro tournament. the french can and have stood their ground against their own government, which is a lesson that others should really consider: this is a country where the government has a healthy fear of the power of its employers. that said, hollande doesn't have a lot to lose, having almost no chance of being re-elected, and might be inclined towards a standoff.

so traveling to see the euro should be great, as long as your idea of great includes walking from paris to lyon.

5. the world could lose another really amazing person. with the news today of the passing of muhammed ali, we are a poorer little planet. ali raised the bar for what it meant to be a professional athlete, using his fame to put hard questions to the people who cheered him on in the ring. it's easy to forget the incredible strength and bravery it took to do and say the things he did. in the end, he spent much of his later life a prisoner of the body that had once served him so well, struggling with the mind that had served his people and all of us so well, a struggle that was a tragic but not uncommon side effect of his profession.

2016 has already been a terrible year, in that we have been losing people who tried to use their fame to provoke thought and debate, and to help the people who weren't famous. i'm a little scared to see what else is coming, but we've hardly been given a chance to breathe between shocks. donald trump has a decent shot at winning the presidency and bowie, prince and ali are dead. 2016, you are fired.

on that rather dark note [which i am typing at four-thirty in the morning after another bout of insomnia], i will leave you and return to filling out my predictions for the euro tournament [assuming that french workers don't shut it down, although, if you're a betting person, i'd put money on some significant disruptions]. 

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