For those people who like their balls to be leather/polyurethane rather than bucky, it can’t have escaped your notice that the 2008 European Championships are underway in Switzerland and Austria. We have the obligatory fantasy football league in the office, with Steve and Gav doing considerably better than I am.

In a desperate attempt to tie football to chemistry for a blog post, I’ve noticed a link between certain key points in my education/career and major football matches/tournaments The link began in 1996, when my final school exam (AS-level Further Maths) was on the same day as England beating Holland 4-1 at Wembley in Euro 96. The World Cup in France in 1998 is forever linked to my 2nd–3rd year dissertation (Bond length–bond strength relationships in chemistry) — mornings in the library carrying bound volumes of pre-1940 JACS up from the basement to read articles by Linus Pauling were followed by afternoons and evenings watching football. I missed the first half of Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph while revising for my last 3rd year exam.

Euro 2000 is even more painfully etched on my memory: all in one day I discovered I had a viva exam to determine my final grade (9am), sat the exam (11ish), got the result (4ish) and watched England get knocked out by Romania (9ish). Not a fun 12 hours! I spent the 2002 World Cup as a somewhat dazed postgraduate, trying to fit watching the early games (the perils of a tournament in Japan and Korea…) before going to the lab. Finally, I had the interview/assessment day for the RSC graduate training scheme on the day of a friendly between England and Japan in the build-up to Euro 2004 and watched the final (cliched plucky underdogs Greece beating hosts Portugal) in Cambridge during a weekend trying to find somewhere to live before I started work.

Lots of my friends have similar stories (dashing through the deserted streets of Edinburgh after an exam during Brazil v Scotland in 1998, or walking out of their final exam into the bar upstairs for the opening match in 2002), so let’s have yours!


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)