Austrian football is at a bit of a low internationally. Now, considering my own country is unlikely to make it to the big dance next summer, I’m not one to suggest Austria shouldn’t be playing in Euro 2008, which they’re co-hosting with Switzerland. Fortunately, I don’t have to, as over 10,000 of their own fans are saying exactly that themselves.
Ten thousand Austrians have signed a petition to withdraw their nation from the tournament, of which they are co-hosts. The Osterreich zeigt Ruckgrat – Austria, Stop Being Spineless! – campaign, with its manifesto of “Let’s Not Embarrass Ourselves”, has become increasingly embarrassing to the joint organisers of the event. It draws attention not simply to the fact that one of the supposed leading 16 teams in Europe next summer are ranked 88th in the world, but that Austria have become, in the words of Ruckgrat’s chief agitator, the sports presenter Michael Kriess, “too bad to watch” and have an FA that is “self-serving and inadequate”.
The most recent low was the night they lost 2-0 to Chile in front of fewer than 13,000 in Vienna. The same evening, Switzerland, the co-hosts of Euro 2008, drew nearly 20,000 against Japan in another friendly – not at home but playing their match in Klagenfurt, Austria. But Austria’s head coach Josef Hickersberger has seen much worse. In a previous stint under his management they lost to the Faroe Islands.
Whilst it would be absurd not to automatically include hosts, perhaps they shouldn’t be necessarily seeded too. Still, football’s not played on paper, as the old cliche goes, so let’s hope Austria can get the country behind them and spring a surprise.