The Euro 2020 was supposed to have commenced last week, but football fans will have to wait for another year to witness the most glorious event in European football. In March, a tough decision was made by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), as their largest European Championship men’s soccer tournament was called off due to the threat of global pandemic.
The European Championship, which was set to be held across Europe – Azerbaijan, UK, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Romania, Scotland – to mark UEFA’s 60th anniversary will now take place from June 11 to July 11 in 2021. Twenty-four teams will be competing for the trophy currently held by Portugal across six groups
Last Friday was supposed to be the start of the tournament with a match scheduled to be held in Rome at the Olympic stadium where Italy hosting Turkey as the kick-off match. It was set to be the biggest ever celebration of Europe’s footballing heritage until the coronavirus pandemic crippled and halted Europe and all sporting activities across the continent and the world.
“We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent. It is at times like these, that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said during the announcement of postponement.
Before the halt, the teams have already grouped and the schedule and venues were announced. The groups are as follows: Group A: Turkey, Italy, Wales and Switzerland; Group B: Denmark, Finland, Belgium and Russia; Group C: Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria and play-off winner D or A; Group E: Spain, Sweden, Poland and play-off winner B; Group F: Portugal, France, Germany and play-off winner A or D.
The Republic of Ireland were due to face Slovakia in Bratislava in March in a playoff but no new date has been set for the game to take place. Previously, UEFA vice president Sándor Csányi says the postponed playoffs could be played in October or November. All 55 UEFA member countries are scheduled to play Nations League games during that window, but the governing look at rescheduling it.
As the situation in Europe is getting stable and restrictions are now being eased, football action is underway as major leagues already resumed their season with the Bundesliga in Germany became the first major league to restart last month, while La Liga went back over the weekend and the Premier League and Serie A to follow next week.
Meanwhile, in a statement last week, UEFA said that its executive committee would meet in a video conference on June 17th to discuss how to conclude this season’s Champions League and Europa League as well as schedule and venues for Euro 2020. It is learnt that UEFA intend to use the same 12 host cities for the event next year but has yet to confirm a schedule for matches.
Held every four years, Euro 2020 is considered the most popular football tournament next to the World Cup in terms of international prestige. The European Championship generates around €2 billion for UEFA from sponsors and broadcasters. The tournament is the first biggest major sporting event to be postponed because of the pandemic. It was then followed by the Olympics in Tokyo.