One year late and hit by the pandemic: Euro 2020 finally begins

Even without the coronavirus, the European Football Championship will be an organizational achievement.

For the first time, 24 participating national teams will criss-cross the entire African continent, competing in 11 stadiums from Glasgow to Baku-a change from the traditional model of one or two countries hosting all competitions.

To further complicate matters, the pandemic has forced UEFA, the governing body of European football, to Postpone the game One year, the restrictions on the number of viewers have led to a reduction in estimated revenue of at least 300 million euros, mainly due to the loss of ticketing and entertainment.

As the match finally begins on Friday in Italy against Turkey at the Rome Olympic Stadium, the virus threat will cause logistical problems during the month-long match.

A worker arranges football merchandise in a shop in Wembley Stadium before the 2020 European Cup © Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The organisers of Euro 2020 — the name of the tournament has not changed and has been printed on millions of goods — spent months negotiating with the government, football executives and medical officials to agree on travel arrangements and Strict agreement for the holding of the competition.

As a result, the additional cost of health and hygiene measures amounted to 10 million euros. UEFA hopes to conduct approximately 24,000 Covid-19 tests during the game. This system not only covers players, but also anyone who may be in close contact: referees, team officials, and even coach drivers.

The first task of the organizers is to avoid an explosion that could derail the game. “The player is infected and the team cannot play-this is the worst case [scenario],” said Martin Cullen, CEO of UEFA’s competition department.

“There is only one Ronaldo,” he added, referring to Portugal’s star player.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal
Portugal’s talisman forward Cristiano Ronaldo lined up to shoot in a friendly match between Madrid and Spain this month ©Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

Efforts to host a major sporting event during the pandemic will be closely watched by event organizers Tokyo OlympicsIt will start two weeks after the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium in London on July 11.

Former French captain and then UEFA president Michel Platini conceived the idea of ​​holding football matches across the continent.

He promoted the concept to celebrate the most popular games in the world that reflect modern reality, and low-cost airlines and online booking sites make it easier for fans to participate.

The pandemic exposed the arrogance behind the plan.Platini resigned in 2016 Ethics investigation An unrecorded payment from FIFA, the governing body of world football. Due to the pandemic, his successor, Aleksander Ceferin, discussed moving the game to a single country such as Russia or England.

Supporters of the Stade de France, just north of Paris
Supporters prepare for Tuesday’s friendly against Bulgaria at the Stade de France © Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images

Although Ceferin stated that it is unlikely that the experiment of holding events throughout Europe will be repeated, it was ultimately decided that the initial plan would be easier to implement, rather than cancel the binding commercial contract.

Because UEFA did not want the game to be played empty, the two original host cities, Dublin and Bilbao, were forced to withdraw. Among the stadiums where the games are held, the Puskas Stadium in Budapest will be the only stadium that is completely open. The stadiums in St. Petersburg and Baku will run at 50% capacity, while some other stadiums will be a quarter full.

Although there are signs that the British government may postpone the plan to lift the coronavirus restrictions on June 21, UEFA hopes that the restrictions will end in time to allow Wembley to receive 90,000 people in the final.

Unlike the Olympic organizers and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, they reached an agreement to provide vaccinations for athletes. The difference is that UEFA believes that it is too difficult to vaccinate football players before the game.

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But club football matches, such as the Champions League, are successfully held. Similar agreement For those who are preparing to participate in the 2020 European Cup.

Players need to pass the Covid-19 test when they arrive at the team’s training camp, after which they will enter a “bubble” isolated from the outside world. They will be placed in hotels and isolated areas from other guests, and tested every two to four days.

Food and laundry services will be handled by team staff, not hotel staff. The stadium will be divided into different “zones” in order to prevent players from approaching anyone who has not undergone a rigorous testing system.

“It’s not something you would choose, but everyone faces these difficulties,” England coach Gareth Southgate said of these restrictions. “We respect that there are so many people in the world who cannot do their jobs in our way.”

It is generally believed that it may not be possible to stop the spread of the virus. The Spanish team captain Sergio Busquets tested positive for the virus last weekend, forcing the team to self-quarantine.

People walk past the Euro 2020 advertising ball in Baku, Azerbaijan

People walk past the Euro 2020 in Baku, Azerbaijan, which will host Wales vs. Switzerland on Saturday ©Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

If this situation is repeated during the game, if at least 13 players from each country’s 26-man lineup can participate in the game, UEFA will require the game to continue. Otherwise, the team may be forced to recruit young players or substitute players in a short time to complete the game. Another option is to postpone the game no more than two days.

If the Covid-19 surge forces a country to withdraw from the game, there are also contingency plans to transfer the game to other cities.

Daniel Koch, the health adviser to the organisers of Euro 2020, said: “The most likely scenario is that we will have happy fans and we will not have a big problem with Covid.”

“This game will not change the outcome of the pandemic,” he added, but “if people are happier, it might help in a good way.”

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