What if you are planning a sports tournament and nobody wants to host it? That’s the bizarre position Uefa is in as they officially announce today who will host Euro 2028.
Italy were the initial favorites but chose to keep their powder dry and await a bid to host the World Cup in 2030. Turkey was in the running but decided against it. At one point, Russians expressed an interest in being a host country, but given the current circumstances, the less talked about the idea, the better.
The last candidates left were us and the four British nations, so rather than eagerly tuning in to today’s TV announcement with bated breath, we already know the outcome. And that result seems to infuriate a lot of Irish people.
Some of their concerns are entirely valid. At a time when the FAI is on the brink of bankruptcy and the League of Ireland is desperately cash-strapped, should the government and national football governing body throw much-needed resources at what many critics dismiss as white elephants, a politicians’ vanity project ?
Some complaints make less sense. In fact, a caller to a radio station yesterday was furious at the announcement because it would simply bring “drunken debauchery and violence” to the streets of Dublin. Of course, as many football fans are happy to admit, drunken debauchery is part of the appeal of an international tournament – just look at how much our fans enjoy ourselves when we qualify for a tournament and they can visit a foreign country to experience it from the heart enjoy a few weeks of singing, drinking and making friends with the locals.
The violence? Well I suppose that point was made against the English fans who behaved so disgracefully in the run up to the Euro 2020 final which actually took place in 2021 thanks to Covid.
On that summer’s day last year, more than 2,000 ticketless England fans stormed the turnstiles at Wembley, turning this magnificent stadium into a war zone before the game had even started. England fans often get an unfair reputation for brawling and, let’s face it, their almost extravagant brand of stupidity. But there are times when they do deserve to be despised by the rest of the world, and their behavior this past July once again brought shame to the vast majority of ordinary decent fans.
However, concerns about hordes of marauding Sassenachs rampaging through the streets of Temple Bar are misplaced. Yes, many of us still remember the chaos on old Lansdowne Road in 1995, when the full weight of English hooliganism landed with a thud on our banks, and those memories will never fade.
But in that case, it’s highly unlikely England will play any of their games away from Wembley – unless we’re drawn against them in a home game. Even then, that’s an assumption based on the assumption that we’ll qualify automatically, as is the tradition for a host country.
However, other countries have already expressed concern that five spots will be automatically given to us and the four other host countries, potentially leaving us with the rather humiliating prospect of throwing a party to which we were not invited.
But that’s football and while I can certainly understand the complaints of the dedicated and much-maligned fans of League of Ireland clubs who feel they have once again been ignored, there is a bigger picture that we should keep in mind . The bigger picture is this – as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (oh if only Manchester United had hired him when they had the chance) memorably put it in 2020: “Football is the most important of the least important things.”
In one fell swoop, the brilliant German nailed what every fan knows. Bill Shankly’s quote that football is more important than life and death became redundant after the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, but that doesn’t change the fact that we need sport, particularly football, in our lives.
Of course, we’ll never be able to host an entire tournament, so we should embrace this opportunity with enthusiasm. While some of the arguments to the contrary undoubtedly carry weight, the fact that some of the matches will be played at both the Aviva and Croke Park is a wonderful opportunity to showcase two of Europe’s finest stadiums.
It is also estimated (although these are usually “estimates”) that hosting a few matches here could bring in over €600m to the economy.
With a hotel and hospitality sector brought to its knees by the impact of lockdowns, does anyone seriously think we are capable of turning our noses up at well over half a billion pounds?
Many of us were surprised at what we’ve missed the most over the past two years of virtual house arrest. For me it was gigs and matches. In fact, I found myself at Whelan’s in Dublin twice last week, and while I’m still not fully recovered, it was great to once again feel a bass drum pounding through the floor.
That’s football – we’ve all missed games big and small and the prospect of hosting the second largest football tournament in the world makes our mouths water.
Let’s face it, we’re all desperate for something to look forward to.
Ireland playing Italy or Germany or even England in a crucial group match at the Aviva? The whole country would be chained, and who can object to such a prospect?
Stephen Kenny had an appalling start to last season but even his many detractors will admit he finished strongly and it looks like players are starting to adjust to his managerial frequency.
So with the most promising generation of young players in years, we should be in a really strong position to excel at the tournament.
This is something to enjoy.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/ignore-the-moaners-hosting-matches-at-euro-2028-will-be-a-wonderful-spectacle-41476351.html Ignore the whining – hosting matches at Euro 2028 will be a wonderful spectacle