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Sunday, August 1, 2021

All Eyes on Europe’s Biggest Football Event This Year

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Last year should have been the time when European football celebrates the “birthday” of its biggest pan-European tournament, a “romantic” event, as UEFA’s then-president Michel Platini put it. The event was ultimately postponed to 2021 due to the circumstances we all know. Now, in turn, it’s on – and all eyes around the world are pointed at it. But the attention is only partly due to EURO 2020 being the biggest sporting event right now.

Fans and punters

Football was not the only thing that got suspended last year – major events with live audiences suffered the same fate. Football fans had to make do with sports betting online and the live video streams of matches they had no way of following in person at the stadiums. Exciting and immersive as they may be, watching a match in the Betway app is not the same as actually being at the stadium – just as a YouTube concert is no match for singing along with the artist in front of the stage.

Football fans have just started returning to the stadiums and in very limited numbers. The European Championship is as much a sporting event as it is an experiment in holding events with large live audiences. And you can believe the audiences will be large at the matches of the European Championship – even the more cautious hosts have agreed to fill up their stadiums to 25% of their capacity, and some even went all-in, allowing tens of thousands of fans simultaneously on their stadiums. These will be the first events with live audiences this big for more than a year. 

Considerable star power

Of course, the other reason why all eyes are pointed at the 11 host cities for a month is football itself. Players who are normally scattered across countries around the world are gathering to represent their nations – and some of them are truly expensive ones. Two of the participating teams – England and France – have squads of players that are worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), with players like Harry Kane (worth almost $150 million) and Kylian Mbappé (worth around $200 million) stepping onto the turf. Considering that these two national teams – England and France – are the most likely to meet in the European Championship final, we may well call the match “the battle of billions”. 

But all the other squads have gathered their best and brightest for the anniversary edition of the European Championship. We’ll have the chance to see young and talented players who take their first steps in the high-profile international sports world play alongside seasoned veterans who have proven their worth countless times before.

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