WITHBetween vaccination schedules and corona traffic lights, it is no longer easy to regulate traffic. The news chases one another, the windows of possibilities open and close, the sense of time is lost. In this Kafkaesque jumble of information, more people than usual have missed the fact that a European football championship is coming up. “Ah, EM”, once enlightened, is usually their answer, followed by the logical question: “Where then?” Then only perplexity: “In eleven countries? Really? ”Yes, really.
In the era of bubbles, restrictions and re-erected border trees, a football tournament is actually taking place in eleven countries with eleven different health and entry regulations (England and Scotland belong to the same state, their rules are nevertheless different).
The fact that top football is removed from reality is now considered a commonplace: 222 million euros transfer fee and 130 million euros annual salary, private hairdresser and super league. But his real satire skills were apparently still underestimated.
Where sporting events have been canceled since the beginning of the pandemic or restricted as locally as possible, where the European football association Uefa itself consolidated the Champions League in one place last year and only had to postpone the final of this season from Istanbul to Porto two weeks ago – he was stubborn at the multinational EM held. It looks like he’s lucky with the timing.
Unlike in South America, where the continental association only had the option of the Brazilian corona denier Jair Bolsonaro after the withdrawal of the original organizers Colombia and Argentina, summer begins here. And unlike in Japan, whose people are waiting for the Olympic Games with a mixture of anger and panic, the EM meets a population that may not be particularly enthusiastic, but is at least more optimistic.
The tournament coincides with falling infection numbers, certain openings in all countries and the prospect of the EU vaccination certificate on July 1st. Unfortunately, of course, that five of the seven remaining tournament games will take place outside the EU, but at least national spectators should be present everywhere. The main thing is that no more empty stadiums, everyone looks the same on TV anyway. With the exception of Munich, the cities have already promised at least 25 percent occupancy. Bilbao and Dublin were canceled because of their refusal. Budapest, on the other hand, even wants to completely fill the hut with 61,000 people.
“I dream that the EM will be the start of a new life,” said Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin recently in an interview with WELT AM SONNTAG. Fan meetings, beer gardens, soccer. Would of course be a strong piece if Uefa just got out of this number. It is not excluded. Football is a game where nobody knows how it will end. Only the officials, they always win.
Of course, the current Uefa boss is only the inheritance administrator of the pan-European EM idea. How it came about in the first place: This story is worth telling again.
It begins in January 2007, when ex-star Michel Platini won a vote for president against long-time incumbent Lennart Johansson at the UEFA Congress in Düsseldorf.
The decisive move was an alliance with the medium-sized and small associations, the number of which had increased sharply with the break-up of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In return for their support, he promised more participation in the crown jewels of Uefa. The association soon announced the expansion of the European Championship finals, which had only been enlarged to 16 participants in 1996, to 24 teams. More countries, more games, more revenue.
Brexit, Corona and the climate
For the first mammoth tournament in 2016, Platini’s home country France was awarded the contract. During the application phase for 2020, however, the horizon darkened with the effects of the global financial crisis. In view of severe budget cuts, the usual suspects such as Italy and Spain no longer dare to meet the strict UEFA requirements (including nine high-gloss stadiums plus three substitute venues); the originally favored Turkey suddenly preferred an Olympic candidacy; and a trio from Wales, Scotland and Ireland convinced the association just as little as a partnership between Georgia and Azerbaijan. Platini threatened to be without an organizer – and presented his Houdini act to the press on the day before the European Championship finals 2012 in Kiev.
Those who were there at the time have not forgotten the amazement in the auditorium. The eloquent Platini – later forced to resign in the wake of the corruption affairs in the world association Fifa – dispelled all objections with a confident visionary routine. His idea of a multinational tournament is by no means a makeshift, but a homage to European unification and the 60th anniversary of the first European Championship. When asked how he envisions venues for fans across the whole world, he answered dryly: “As you know, there are low-cost airlines.” Over the next few months, the committees decided on his proposal. A lot has happened since then.
On the one hand, the host country of the semi-finals, finals and another nine games has in a way said goodbye to the continent. Great Britain (venues in London and Glasgow) voted for Brexit in June 2016. Five years of arm wrestling with Brussels later, the kingdom attests to a “burgeoning status as a large, independent maritime trade nation” (Prime Minister Boris Johnson); and is thus about as pan-European as Russia, the country with the second most games (seven, Saint Petersburg).
Second, the climate debate picked up tremendously. Hardly anyone would conjure up the low-cost airlines as nonchalantly as Platini back then. In this respect, Uefa is a pandemic winner: Because only a fraction of the originally expected masses will jet through Europe due to the travel restrictions, it is at least spared this topic, which would otherwise have overshadowed the tournament.
Where she otherwise likes to dictate the conditions to the organizers, this time she has to submit to countless and constantly new regulations. According to the current status, even an EM ticket does not entitle entry into Glasgow, in London it does not exempt from the quarantine obligation, in Copenhagen nothing is clear yet, and in Baku only spectators whose nation is involved in a game there are allowed to come. Conversely, the case of Budapest is remarkable, where fans can enter more easily than accredited tournament staff such as journalists. As is well known, Hungary does not have the freedom of the press and is using the Corona emergency to further undermine it; as well as that of other civil rights.
Things have gotten more complicated on the continent since Platini first came up with his idea nine years ago. That is precisely why it could have made an interesting contribution to international understanding without Covid. The peoples are more likely to experience a football tournament side by side, which could become one of the most absurd major sporting events since the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis served as a five-month program at a world exhibition.
But possibly also actually to a carrier of gentle relaxation and partial normality. In the end, probably both: During the pandemic, people learned to look from day to day and make the most of it. Maybe he will even succeed in this EM.
All matches, dates and results can be found in our 2021 European Championship schedule.