Friday marked the opening day of the 2010 edition of the hotly-contested Ryder Cup
, and it was undoubtedly the British wet weather that emerged victorious. Contested every two years, the venue for the three-day tournament alternates between golf courses in the United States
and boasts two teams of the most talented players in the world.
However you feel about the game of golf, this particular competition is remarkable because there is no prize money – the players all play for pride, not for cash or ranking points – and it is the only sporting event in which Europe is represented by a single team.
Representing Europe this year, the team comprises of players from the United Kingdom
, the Republic of Ireland
. Can you imagine such a team competing in other sports? If Europe had a football team it would surely be the best in the world, although how would you decide on who to select? It is perhaps fortunate then that a Europe football team is extremely unlikely to ever materialise.
But in golf a Europe team has competed the Ryder Cup since the first tournament in 1927 and it was this representation that delights the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso who bizarrely issued a statement on his website
describing its “special significance
” for him. “Here sportsmanship is more important than sport. Here the fans on the fairway are the real mark of success,
” he added.
From one outspoken political figure to another: UKIP's Nigel Farage
, a keen golfer, tonight appeared on Channel4 News
and declared that the competition was being "hijacked
" by the European Union.
It is very noticeable even to the casual spectator how the many fans that line the fairways appear to keenly and voluntarily dress themselves up in merchandise bearing the 12 gold star emblem and wave EU flags, big and small.
Of course, it is this that Mr Farage has most issue with: "Whenever I watch the television all I see is that wretched EU flag. What on earth has this got to do with the European Union? What on earth has it got to do with Mr Barroso, the President of the European Commission, claiming ownership of the Ryder Cup as an EU event? It isn't. Leave us alone.
“I love the Ryder Cup, I've followed it all my life and of course I'll be supporting the continent of Europe but I have to confess I'll be doing so through gritted teeth,
” he said.
It is remarkable however how long-standing feelings towards the EU change with such an event. A casual flick through any British newspapers’ sports coverage this weekend is likely to include some phrase on the lines of “we're all European this weekend
Even at the Daily Telegraph
– the broadsheet home of Eurosceptic coverage
– published this article
on Thursday 30th which reads:
"Viva, España! Forza, Italia! Vorwärts, Deutschland! It is time for the nations of Europe to make common cause against common foe – the golfers of the United States of America. This weekend, Celtic Manor plays host to the biennial Ryder Cup, the one event that forces even the staunchest Eurosceptics to forsake their American cousins for their Continental neighbours.
It would be churlish to point out that this is a largely British effort – a Welsh locale, a Scottish captain and a spine of players from England and Northern Ireland. Instead, we urge readers to wave their blue and gold flags with pride."
Whether this sentiment is motivated by anti-Americanism or pro-Europeanism, you have to admit that the Ryder Cup is quite an event if it gets people voluntarily wearing the EU flag, since many more people across the continent feel a greater connection to their national colours.
Yet although none of the opening round of matches were completed due to the heavy rainfall, let’s hope that its Europe captain Colin Montgomerie
who leads his men to the victory on Sunday concluding a competitive contest.