|It couldn't have ended any better, could it? I'm not talking about the final, which was both sporadic in true quality and brimming with nastiness, I'm referring to where I watched it and the people around me.
Perched precariously on the curb outside an Italian bar, in the Dutch city of Amsterdam, with a couple of American guys on one side, a Spanish family on the other and a host of other assorted nationalities milling around, I found myself in the middle of a great international event. The pressure was off for most of us - or never on us in the case of the English and Americans watching the final, for very different reasons - and the atmosphere summed up the inclusiveness which makes these types of occasions so memorable.
It was a celebration of the game and of the tournament. True, there were supporters around with a vested interest in the result but the majority of us were just there in the hope of a good game.
The Spanish added a certain color. They certainly seemed to have arrived at the bar with a party mentality and from the first whistle they sang and waved their flags - nearly decapitating a few passing cyclists in the process.
The Germans who were watching with us tutted loudly and shouted phrases of frustration at the TV screen for half and hour until Fernando Torres scored what would turn out to be the winning goal. Once the furore had died down, we turned to see that they had vanished like smoke, extricating themselves from the revelry to presumably find a canal to jump into. All of which was a tad premature given that there was a good hour of the game left to play.
As the game wore on and the niggly tackles and confrontations began creeping into the action on screen, the atmosphere on the pavement continued to buzz with friendly banter in languages from all over the world. While very few there could understand all what was being said, the sing-song tones told everyone what they needed to know: every one was safe here to enjoy what they came for.
(The only threat, I must add here, came from the bar owner who looked as though he knew a thing or two about the Cosa Nostra. The framed picture by the bar of him together with a young Frank Sinatra only reinforced this view.)
Before long, the endless conveyor belt of beers from the bar had given the songs an infectious quality and, despite not really knowing the words, those neutrals among us started to join in with the Spanish as the game ticked down to a famous victory for the Furia Roja. And at the final whistle, the party gained further momentum - even raising a smile from the sullen landlord.
After group hugs and garbled Esperanto farewells, the international crowd dispersed to whatever corner of Amsterdam called loudest. Wherever it was they all ended up, I'm pretty sure they were carrying the same pleasant memories as me.