The opening match of the European Football Championship was played in the Italian capital, the first country outside Asia to be hit by the pandemic and the first in the world to implement a national lockdown. The tournament represents a big step forward on the road to recovery from one of the darkest chapters in the continent’s history since WWII. More than a million Europeans have died in the pandemic, including nearly 127,000 Italians.
“After everything that has happened, now the situation is improving, I think the time has come to start providing the fans with something to be happy with,” said Italian coach Roberto Mancini, who tested positive for COVID-19 in November but was asymptomatic.
The tournament was postponed last March when countries scrambled to contain outbreaks of the virus and major sporting events around the world were canceled or suspended.
While there have been some big one-day sporting events in recent weeks – the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, the Champions League final and a Canelo Alvarez boxing match in Texas which drew 73 000 fans – Euro 2020 brings together tens of thousands of fans in the stadiums. across the continent. Organizers hope measures including crowd restrictions, staggered arrival times for fans, social distancing rules and plenty of hand sanitizers will help prevent a resurgence of viral infections, which have fallen sharply in Europe in the past. last months.
In Rome, supporters entering the stadium were required to bring documents proving they had been vaccinated against the virus, tested negative within 48 hours before the match or already had the disease.
Matches in 11 countries
The sports world is keeping a close eye on both this tournament and the Copa America football event which kicks off in Brazil in a few days, after Colombia and then Argentina step down from their hosting duties for reasons. linked to the pandemic. If all goes well, Euro 2020 may give confidence a boost for other major sporting events, like the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23 – also a year late. . If not, it would be a serious setback that could have ramifications beyond football.
The virus has already had an impact on the tournament, which for the first time is not hosted by one or two nations. The 51 matches will be played in 11 cities across the continent, with Rome and London joined by Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Munich, Seville and St. Petersburg.
The final is now set for July 11 at Wembley Stadium in London.
Italy beat Turkey 3-0 in the opener, which drew the country’s largest crowd since its full lockdown 15 months ago. The expectation was around 16,000 fans in the stadium, representing 25% of its capacity.
In Rome and elsewhere in Italy, most virus restrictions have been lifted. A midnight curfew and the requirement to wear a mask outside one’s home are the most tangible ways the pandemic is still affecting the daily lives of citizens.
Spain captain Sergio Busquets has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team’s first game against Sweden in Sevilla on Monday. Another Spanish player has tested positive, as have two Swedish players. The Spanish team was vaccinated on Friday.
Russian winger Andrey Mostovoy went on to become the first player to be banned from a national team on Friday after testing positive.