Euro 2021: paving the way for understanding?
The UEFA European Championship, originally slated for 2020, will kick off this Friday in Rome with a match between Italy and Turkey. With eleven host countries, this year's edition is particularly pan-European. But it is also special because spectators will once again be present in the stadiums - albeit in limited numbers. Europe's press alternates between delight and scepticism.
Booing and cheering together again at last
Football unites, La Repubblica rejoices:
“It kicks off today with spectators, and in Budapest without restrictions in the stadium. This is a return to a quasi normality for a diverse Europe with very extended borders, united and disunited, with Brexit England outside but with the final at Wembley Stadium in London. The stadiums are getting their own voice again, a collective soundtrack. The fans are back, for many the twelfth man on the team, the one who cheers when their strength is waning, the one who whistles and boos when he feels cheated. ... There are those who are content to see the old mood returning, and those who want a new mood. ... With the hope that sport can be not just a sailing boat but a Noah's Ark on which we share our diversity.”
Football pitches becoming political minefields
The Aargauer Zeitung questions whether the European Football Championship contributes in any way to understanding among peoples:
“Will the Turks greet Erdoğan with their hands on their temples again in the opening match against the Italians? Will the England-Scotland game go off without any Brexit hooliganism? And what will Putin do if the Russians have to play against the Ukrainians - and lose? UEFA already banned duels in the qualifying matches: Kosovo was not allowed to play against Bosnia or Serbia, nor Spain against Gibraltar. UEFA calls these 'prohibited clashes'. Fortunately for peace in Europe, most of these national teams did not qualify for the final round of the European Championship.”
A tournament of uncertainties
Staging the championship across the continent was supposed to be a symbolic gesture, but the pandemic has turned it into an immense challenge and a risk, Le Soir observes:
“Strict sanitary measures, spectator limits that vary from country to country, infectious outbreaks in certain teams, travel difficulties for daring fans: the European Championship is hanging by a thread, that much is clear. ... Twenty-four teams participating in 11 different countries is an enormous headache for the organisers, who were guided by strategic and financial considerations (one venue per qualified team to bring in the maximum amount of money or pull strings in as many countries as possible) and are now faced with logistics that could jeopardise the entire championship.”
Uefa wins, human rights lose
The Kurier criticises the way the venues were chosen:
“Charming perhaps at first glance, but in reality one of the world's largest sport federations has repeatedly shirked its duty to assume political responsibility in the name of the hypocritical cause of bringing nations together. Putin's Russia (St. Petersburg) has been given a stage to present itself in a friendly way, Orbán's Hungary (Budapest) likewise. Not to mention Azerbaijan (Baku), where human rights have been kicked aside. But at least this European Championship is profitable for UEFA.”