Italy and England are fighting tonight for the throne of Europe in a preparatory climate despite the alarming increase in positives in the United Kingdom. The final puts the finishing touch on a tournament in which nothing happened as planned
It was economic and political interests, as is always the case in football, that drove the now-disowned Michel Platini and his courtiers to design the unseen Eurocup almost a decade ago, but the story built around it varnished that idea with a trace of romanticism that led the football community to perform a sideways exercise on their real motivations to accept it as good. Europe united around a ball, thousands of fans touring the continent chasing a national dream with the final season at Wembley, the emotional epicenter of football due to the history inherited from its original version already demolished.
The script was perfect, at the expense of his protagonists, the footballers, honoring him on the lawn. They have done their part, drawing a great Eurocup, perhaps one of the best ever, that tonight crown Italy or England, two allegories of the prevalence of the collective over individualities -like Spain, like Denmark-, precisely the idea of Europe that this tournament aims to represent. Around the ball, however, everything has been destroyed. Populism threatens the continent’s project of unity as it has never done since the Second World War and the final is being contested in a country that broke ties with its closest neighbors to fly alone again.
Today, that powerful Europe is a fragile Europe, financially and emotionally worn out by a pandemic that has blown up consensus and altered social customs. The imagined great torrent of fans filling airports and cities has not existed because of international restrictions, transforming praise into complaints. Nothing that was not planned for more than a year, despite what UEFA decided to go ahead with a tournament format that today recognizes failed. There were too many financial commitments already collected to give up.
The money, precisely, justifies that Wembley is going to be today, as it happened in the semifinals, a prepandmic oasis. Despite the alarming increase in cases in the United Kingdom – the 14-day infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants exceeds 500 cases – the London stadium will once again host the final to 60,000 spectators, 70% of its total capacity. The mask is already a vestige of the past and social distance a chimera, both within the stadium and in public transport and the rest of the areas of British society, in a climate of national euphoria encouraged by the government of Boris Johnson, that it is preparing to eliminate all pandemic rules within a week. Football was always a symptom of how a society beats. Wembley, like Paris, is well worth a mass.
The restrictions on foreign travelers will also cause the final to be a trap for the enthusiastic Italy of Roberto Mancini, who curiously works as a local. All the pressure, then, is for England, with everything in favor to break with its historical marriage with failure, whose only exception was the 1966 World Cup, resolved at the old Wembley. The defeat of the selection of Gareth southgateAfter playing six of their seven games in London, it would be a drama for a country that cannot bear the more outrageous sport that they themselves invented more than a century and a half ago. The Three Lions are undoubtedly loaded with the vitola of favorites, but in this European Championship, you know, nothing tends to go as planned.