Postponed by a year, the biggest sporting event since the coronavirus stopped the world kicked off on Friday at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, a milestone for both European and world sport.
The first match of the European Football Championship will be played in the capital of Italy, the first country outside Asia to be affected by the pandemic and the first in the world to implement a nationwide blockade.
The tournament is a big step forward on the road to recovery after one of the darkest chapters in the continent’s history since World War II.
More than 1 million Europeans have died in the pandemic, including almost 127,000 Italians.
“After everything that has happened, now the situation is improving, I think it’s time to start giving fans 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 in March last year when countries tried to contain outbreaks of viruses and major sporting events around the world were canceled or delayed.
Many worry that it is not yet safe to gather tens of thousands of fans in stadiums across Europe, but organizers hope the measures include restrictions on crowds, distributed arrival times, social distancing rules and plenty of hand sanitizer. to help prevent the resurgence of viral infections, which have fallen sharply in Europe in recent months.
In Rome, fans entering the stadium must carry documentation showing that they have been vaccinated against the virus, tested negative in the 48 hours before the match or have already had the disease.
The world of sports is watching. If all goes well, Euro 2020 could boost confidence in other major sporting events, such as the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 23rd – also a year late. If it doesn’t, it would be a serious obstacle that could have consequences beyond football.
The virus has already affected the tournament, which for the first time is not hosted by one or two nations, but is spreading across the continent with matches in 11 cities.
Spain captain Sergio Busquets was positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team’s first match against Sweden in Seville on Monday. Another Spanish player turned out to be positive, as did two of Sweden’s players. The Spanish team is vaccinated on Friday.
Then Russian winger Andrei Mostovoy became the first player to be cut by the national team on Friday after positive tests.
Italy’s opening match against Turkey will bring together the largest crowd in the country since it entered full lock 15 months ago, although the stadium will be filled to only 25% of its capacity.
In Rome and elsewhere in Italy, most viral restrictions have been lifted. The midnight evening and the requirement to wear a mask outside the person’s home are the most tangible ways in which the pandemic still affects the daily lives of citizens.