Euro 2016: An Affair to Remember
Desperation and panic gripped the nation and in a way threw the future of the European Championships into jeopardy.
Terrorist attacks rocked the French capital last November with explosions at seven different sites including the Bataclan Theatre and the Stade de France where the French were up against the Germans in an international friendly. Desperation and panic gripped the nation and in a way threw the future of the UEFA Euro 2016 into jeopardy.
Not just France, the other countries in Europe were also not immune from attacks by different terrorist groups with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria leading the charge. Recently as well, there were attacks in Brussels and Istanbul. Amidst this growing sense of fear, the French authorities were faced with the insurmountable task of ensuring that the upcoming tournament went off without any untoward incident.
And they got down to business way too early. A few months before the curtain raiser in Paris, the French government led by Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve put into place unique security measures. Fan zones were created outside the stadiums and in various parts of the cities where the spectators could watch the games were under immense security.
Prior to the start of the event, 90,000 security forces were deployed in different parts of the country. In fact, the French government in this regard received immense support from their Russian counterpart who agreed to provide extra security forces for the competition.
However, the country was not free from internal troubles. There were protests in Paris regarding the labour reforms. In a rather unique fashion, the protesters used tennis racquets to deal with tear gas bombs during the French Open. Keeping this in mind, high profile ministers and leaders of the ruling party urged the people to calm down.
All possible legislation was delayed until after the European Championships.
Before the event began, France was being seen as a divided nation. A country divided on various policies of the Francois Hollande government. But in the current scenario, things seem to have changed drastically. The entire nation is behind the French team led by Hugo Lloris and are rooting for them to lift the coveted trophy at home.
Not many people gave this side a chance at the start of the tournament. Critics claimed that they lacked the experience to go the distance. They have though been proved wrong. The likes of Dmitri Payet, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezman have stepped up and delivered in fine fashion sending the Les Bleus to the final.
Payet has been a revelation and the stardom that he has achieved having started out from humble beginnings is sure to inspire many. On the other hand, Portugal have done well to make it to the final. They rode their luck and struck when there was a chance. They have not been pretty but have been effective.
However, this tournament will for a long time be remembered for the minnows and the fans. The likes of Iceland and Wales and even Albania used this new format and the opportunity provided to them to the fullest extent and declared their arrival on the world stage. The Icelandic fans backed up their team and without a doubt have left an impression on the minds of people across the globe.
Their war chants have already inspired people in different parts of the globe and even the French side was seen performing the act post their semi-final win over Germany. Wales led by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale also had a great tournament. They beat the likes of Belgium and Hungary to make it to the semi-final eventually losing out to Portugal.
Ireland and Albania played well too. The Irish fans were in fact rewarded for their sporting spirit by the French mayor.
But all of this would not have been possible without the efforts of the French government who were absolutely determined to give the people a tournament to remember. They have managed to deal with an external threat and internal strife. Further, there were no acts of hooliganism from the fans in the stands largely due to the security forces in place and the England Russia game was just a minor blip.
The Government has done extremely well and has made the tournament an affair to remember for the fans. However, there is still a larger role to be played by the authorities in a nation where apart from the football team, nothing else seems to elicit a sense of joy.