This year’s UEFA European Championship was unconventional for a variety of reasons. For one, it was delayed by an entire year because of the pandemic, which led to changes in the teams’ lineups, sending a whole lot of soccer analysis down the drain. On the other hand, it was also the first event to be hosted by not one, not two but 11 countries to commemorate 60 years from the inception of the tournament.
This edition of the European Championship was almost romantic from this point of view, shedding light on the sport’s power to bring people and nations together. At the same time, it was a logistical nightmare, not very environmentally friendly, and unfair toward both teams and fans. So, according to UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin, it shouldn’t happen again in this form.
This year’s European Championship was not only a challenge for the participating teams but also unfair to several of them – and not only the teams but the fans as well. Some teams and fans had to travel thousands of kilometres to play their respective matches, while others had the opportunity to play most of their games at home.
Switzerland, for example, had to travel more than 15,000 kilometres between host cities to play, while Scotland only had to travel a little over 1000. Some teams had to spend hours on a plane and adjust to a brand new setting with just a couple of days between two matches, and this, without a doubt, has affected their performance.
“It was not easy”, Čeferin told BBC Sport in an interview. “We had to travel a lot, into countries with different jurisdictions, different currencies, countries in the European Union (EU) and Non-EU”.
Čeferin is not the only one disgruntled about the way the European Championship was organized this year. Without a doubt, the players of several teams agree with Wales defender Chris Gunter who called it “a joke” after his team had to travel close to 10,000 kilometres to play its matches.
Former French goalscorer, administrator, and manager Michel Platini, president of UEFA between 2007 and 2015, proposed a “romantic” one-off tournament to be hosted by a dozen UEFA member nations to commemorate the tournament’s 60th birthday. Platini himself admitted that the event would be a “zany” idea but as it had support. “We have talked to the fans. They were against it originally but we told them we are going to help them and suddenly they had a much more positive attitude”, said Platini. “Certainly, it will be easier for the English to go to Wales and Scotland to watch a match instead of having to travel the world.”
His “zany” idea certainly turned into perhaps of the most interesting edition of one of the world’s largest sporting events, and certainly a memorable one – somehow, it is a symbol of returning to normal after a challenging year.