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Why the coronavirus can change our outlook on EURO 2020

  • The decision to take EURO 2020 across Europe has been put into perspective as the coronavirus affects everyday life.
  • In our post-crises appreciation of everything we take for granted, the format should be a source of celebration.
Mark Pitman
Modified 21 Mar 2020, 01:28 IST

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin at the EURO 2020 launch
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin at the EURO 2020 launch

The announcement came as no surprise when UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin confirmed on Tuesday that EURO 2020 would be delayed by a calendar year in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has caused unprecedented disruption to daily life for an entire generation across the world.

The tournament was unique in the vision of Čeferin’s predecessor Michel Platini, in that the 60th anniversary of the competition should be celebrated across Europe, and played across a dozen countries to embrace the different cultures that are brought together through the beautiful game.

Travel demands

While the sentiment behind the decision was understood, the associated logistics presented inevitable challenges for all concerned.

From competition organisers to the teams and the travelling fans, plans were quickly made following the December draw. Reversing thousands upon thousands of travel tickets and hotel bookings has only added to the personal stress caused by the coronavirus outbreak for many.

The EURO 2020 tournament, as it will still be called, will take place with the same games in the same countries just a year later than originally scheduled.

The same plans will be made once again by all involved, and a number of new fans will welcome the bonus of an advance notice to make the pilgrimage necessary to watch their respective nations compete on the biggest stage.

It was a controversial decision by Michel Platini to take EURO 2020 around Europe
It was a controversial decision by Michel Platini to take EURO 2020 around Europe

There has been heavy criticism of Platini’s decision to take the tournament around Europe, and with London hosting more games than any other nation, including the semi-finals and final, there have been calls to switch the entire tournament to England. With the stadiums already in place, there is justification in the suggestion, but there is far more behind such decisions than meets the eye of the general public.

The expectation is that the finals will take place across Europe as initially intended next summer, and while those against the idea will continue to criticise the decision, current affairs have put the complaint, and football in general, into perspective. In fact, the world would happily embrace the opportunity to watch live football at the present time, whenever and wherever it takes place.


A new appreciation

Whatever your opinion on the format of the tournament, what once may have seemed an impractical and unnecessary burden for thousands of fans, could now act as the perfect tonic in these troubled and difficult times. The challenges that we all face in our daily lives at the present time will change our outlook on life once this crisis passes, and we will start to see things differently.

Football, and sport in general, is an aspect of our lives that we all take for granted, and as so few of us have ever experienced such disruption before, we have every reason to consider it a part of our permanent routine. There is a comforting safety in the consistency of it always being there for us, and we now find ourselves with a significant void as the importance and seriousness of the current situation strikes home.

Fans around the world have been taking precautions in the stadiums for weeks
Fans around the world have been taking precautions in the stadiums for weeks

The projected curves suggest that we will return to a far more familiar lifestyle before June 2021, and there will be no better way to celebrate than with a major international tournament. It is the bi-annual event that combines our national pastime with our national pride, and many of our greatest football memories centre around events that occurred at either the European Championships or World Cup finals.

International football is embedded in the history of the game, and it is the national pride of the players that provides a bond with fans that is often missing in club football. Marking the end of the current crisis deserves a fitting celebration of the game we love, and an international tournament spread across the continent could not be more timely.

A celebration for Europe

Of course, the long-term implications of the crisis will leave a legacy for many years, and financial constraints will be felt like never before.

It will not be practical or possible for many fans to follow their nation to each and every game as the teams move across the continent with each passing round, but it will allow fans in a dozen different countries to attend games and be a part of the competition, rather than limit that opportunity to just one nation.

If this crisis has taught us anything it is that we must share to survive, and the hoarding mentality associated with purchasing everyday items shows that greed continues to prevail within society.

We must come through this crisis as better people, and restarting our lives with this competition offers an opportunity to show a new community spirit that everyone across Europe will have the chance to embrace.

Wembley Stadium in London will host the EURO 2020 semi-finals and final
Wembley Stadium in London will host the EURO 2020 semi-finals and final

Domestic games will return ahead of the tournament next summer, and celebrating the various cups and titles will offer an immediate return to normality, as distant and irrelevant as it may seem right now. The true power of sport has never been more obvious now that it has been taken from us, and its place in the structure of our daily lives has never been clearer.

Even though many of us are still in the early stages of this crisis, it has made a significant impression on how we view the different aspects of our life, and the things we take for granted. There will be challenges for the tournament and for the twelve nations that will host it, and fans will have to compromise when it comes to following their country. But in the context of the present, these are minor concerns.

The ideology behind taking EURO 2020 across the continent was to share in the celebration, and such solidarity has never been more welcome than it is now. The logistical challenges will not be easy, but bringing unity through a time of enforced separation could not be better timed.

Restricted travel has taken away our freedom of movement, but next summer opens up a host of travel options as we come out of this period of confinement.

Embracing the positives

The atmosphere of the stadium is a vital part of the game
The atmosphere of the stadium is a vital part of the game

Our recovery from this crisis should be marked by a memorable event, and the basic human values that have been exposed during this time can be restored by considering the positive opportunities presented by such an ambitious project.

Until recently, choosing which country to travel to was an unrestricted privilege, and it has never been more appreciated than now. Likewise, embracing the atmosphere of a full stadium has never felt more appealing, or further away.

It’s true that we do not know what we have until it’s gone. What we are experiencing at the present time has put our criticism of the EURO 2020 format into perspective, but repeating it next summer now seems a fitting way to welcome back and celebrate a return to the world we know.

The multi-country format is unlikely to be repeated in the future, but its timing has never been more poignant than it is right now.

Published 21 Mar 2020, 01:28 IST
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