UEFA Euro 2020 finally kicks off on Friday, bringing together the top international sides in European football for a tournament unlike any other.
For the first time in the competition’s history, there is no host nation, with matches instead taking place across 11 countries en route to the final at Wembley on 11 July, a “romantic” choice first unveiled by Michel Platini as long ago as 2012.
The festivities begin in Rome on Friday night as Italy take on Turkey, the first of 51 matches staged across the next month involving 24 teams.
But perhaps the strangest aspect of this summer’s Euros – outside of its Andy Burnham-esque mascot “Skillzy” – is the fact that it is still being branded “Euro 2020” despite the 60th anniversary edition of the tournament having to be postponed for 12 months because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
Explaining the decision to retain the original name – a matter of some internal debate – UEFA said in a statement that doing so allows organisers “to keep the original vision of the tournament, which was set to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Football Championship.
“It will furthermore serve as a reminder of how the whole football family came together to respond to the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, and of the difficult times that Europe, and the world, had to go through in 2020.”
There was also a more practical reason for the decision: merchandise.
“This choice is in line with UEFA’s commitment to make UEFA Euro 2020 sustainable and not to generate additional amounts of waste.
“A lot of branded material had already been produced by the time of the tournament’s postponement. A name change for the event would have meant the destruction and reproduction of such items.”
So there you have it.
Other key questions remain to be answered.
Can Portugal retain their crown from 2016? Will North Macedonia have a debut to remember? And will Gareth Southgate succeed in making England fans “Whole Again”?
Only time will tell.
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