Euro 2020 kicks off this week, and it’s a welcome return to some degree of normality. The fact that it’s taking place at all means progress; it was initially scheduled to take place last summer, after all, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Things are by no means perfect, but they’re undoubtedly getting better; in Europe, at least.
Fans will be in attendance at stadiums across Europe, from Rome to Seville and Baku to London. For this is the first multi-nation European Championship, a brainchild of disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini that dispenses of the single or two-nation host. It has perks; more people will be able to watch the big games in the flesh. But there’s also the fundamental drawback of the tournament losing its essence, it’s raison d’etre.
The European Championship is supposed to be a festival of football, centred on a country or at least a region. The whole point is that Europe comes together for four action-packed weeks; fans hopping on Ryanair flights feel, for the moment of boarding, like the elite footballers they’re travelling to watch. They’re not rolling out of bed and heading down the road; they’re heading to the place to be that summer.
Nobody says the 1982 World Cup or the 1986 World Cup. They say Spain ’82 or Mexico ’86. Every football fan knows what’s being discussed when that sacred partnership is mentioned; the same goes for USA ’94, France ’98, Brazil ’14. International tournaments should be what they always have been; going on holiday with the freedom of a child, but as an adult. Specific hosts lend character to competitions and make them distinguishable from one another. This current set-up doesn’t.