Over the last two weeks, it had become quite clear that the European football championship (known as the Euros for short) was the main talking point for everyone, in Europe as in other parts of the world. As a sports event, it does not get the same amount of viewership and importance as the World Cup or even the Super Bowl, but it remains a major event that fans tend to look forward to. However, it is important to note that this edition of the Euros is different from all the ones that have already taken place on so many levels, as well as from those to come. One particular aspect that will always be noticed is that the Euros 2020 were played in June 2021.
For the world today, this does not come as a shock due to everything that has been happening since December 2019. However, this will not be the same for future generations in a few decades. Indeed, the competition was supposed to take place back in June of 2020. However, the event had to be canceled and rescheduled for the following year due to the high impact then of the COVID-19 pandemic. Back then, countries were on lockdown, borders were closed and sporting events were prohibited. A combination of all those factors made it impossible to make an international tournament happen in various countries across Europe. Although domestic competitions were resumed in July 2020, it was only until May 2021 that fans were finally allowed to return in reduced capacity to stadiums in order to watch the games. Until then, all games had to be played behind closed doors. This adds to the beauty and uniqueness of Euro 2020: fans are finally back and there is a certain level of normalcy that is bringing a feeling of joy we had forgotten about for a year and a half.
The beauty of football comes from seeing fans gather together from all places in one stadium. The beauty of football comes from enjoying a beer and partying in the streets at midnight after a game with people who just happened to be seated next to you for 90 minutes. The beauty of football comes from pure, unbridled, sensational love without any concern for age, gender, race, or anything. It is all about passion and joy as you can see with these lads here. I have watched several games in football stadiums, and the best memory I have of them today are not related to the game, but to the atmosphere of losing your voice due to constant singing and shouting. When the team you support scores a goal, the reaction reaches a completely new level of passion and excitement, to the point it feels like the stands are going to succumb to the noise and jumping happening all around.
So many things happened in the world of football over the course of the last twelve months since tournaments were resumed. The uniqueness of Euro 2020 can be resumed in one song, which happened to be the official theme for this tournament.
“I fell in love with football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete with the biggest teams.”
– Ander Herrera
Football also gets its popularity from the numerous David-and-Goliath situations that happen in the fixtures. This has already happened a few times in the current competition that every football fan is following right now. Whether it is about Hungary getting a draw out of France, Scotland keeping England at bay or Slovakia snatching the win from Poland, anything can happen in football. This is connected to the fighting spirit that smaller teams tend to develop in order to get out there and win something out of the game. Such teams might not always go all the way to win the trophy – the most recent case dates back to 2016 when Leicester City shocked everyone by being crowned champions of England -, but it is more for those precious games where the players approach the game with the idea that they have got nothing to lose, yet everything to win. For these teams, whether we are talking about national teams or clubs, the idea of being able to compete on the biggest stage amongst the greatest teams and players of the planet is a dream. It is a competition of its own. An adventure they simply hope will never end. On April 19, 2021, that dream was almost annihilated through the creation of the European Super League.
The main goal of that breakaway league was to allow the biggest clubs in Europe to form a league of their own in order to catch up on lost revenues during the pandemic. As expected, players and managers of said clubs joined forces with fans and pundits in order to boycott this project. The main slogan that was used in this campaign focused on the idea that “Football is for the fans”. The league project eventually died two days later, and through the Euro theme song, the remainder was made about what football consists of.
If I am to take one thing out of everything that has happened in football over the last twelve months, it is that football is a spectator sport and needs its fans in stadiums. Football teams have no meaning and no tradition without the fans. The fans create that hype about a club, they carry and share its values and traditions which is how players feel that special vibe for some teams more than others. Football is a sport that was created by the working class in England and is therefore a sport that everyone should be allowed to play, watch, and compete in. The fans contribute just as much – if not at times more – to what we love to call The Beautiful Game.
To all the fans out there, remember that we contribute to the magic of football.
This is our sport too, not some chairmen’s business investment.