Euro 2024 football has more links to European construction than you can imagine

Euro 2024 football has more links to European construction than you can imagine
Euro 2024 football has more links to European construction than you can imagine
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP Euro 2024, which Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé will play in Germany from June 14, owes more than you imagine to European construction.

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Euro 2024, which Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé will play in Germany from June 14, owes more than you imagine to European construction.

FOOTBALL – If football and politics rarely go hand in hand, it is clear that they are inseparable, especially in Europe. Proof of this is during this month of June since within a few days, the Euro football follows in the news the result of the European elections. A coincidence of the calendar that does things well. Because throughout history, the European Nations Cup and the European Union have always maintained close ties.

Founder of the media FC Geopolitics on social networks, journalist and author Kévin Veyssière knows this question like the back of his hand. He also made a book republished for the Euro: Football Club Geopolitics, 22 unusual stories to understand the world (ed. Max Milo). A few hours before the start of Euro 2024, we asked him to decipher the geopolitical and European issues of the competition which starts this Friday June 14 in Germany.

HuffPost. In your book, you put forward the idea that Euro football is a pillar of European construction. For what ?

Kevin Veyssiere. It is an extension of European construction, particularly on the political and diplomatic side. At the end of the Second World War, the desire of European countries, especially in the West, was to put in place solutions to unite to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

In these initiatives, which then took place in the context of the Cold War, there was that of uniting Europe through sport. An idea already present before the war but which is resurfacing thanks to a more assertive political will. These are the first stones of UEFA, created in 1954. This desire is also supported by internal sports politics. Because within Fifa, South American countries are becoming more and more important. Within the body, but also on the pitch with the 1950 Brazil-Uruguay World Cup final.

At this time, we also see that football, and more broadly sport, can go beyond political divisions. So, in 1954, you had 30 federations present at the start of UEFA. And among them, eastern federations, like the USSR.

And to what extent can this rapprochement through football lead to geopolitical rapprochement?

We must remain cautious because UEFA and the European Union are two uncorrelated organizations. Being a member of UEFA does not mean that you are joining the EU application process. But the most telling example is that of Croatia. Between its declaration of independence in 1991 and the signing of the agreements to end the war in 1995, there was already a bias which made football an important national representative, with the establishment of an unofficial Croatian team, even before its integration into FIFA and UEFA in 1994.

But it is above all his sporting career at Euro 1996 (the beginnings of what we then experienced with Croatia during the 1998 World Cup in France) which will bring him a different image and offer a more positive perception than the one we had with the wars in Yugoslavia. The processes are certainly uncorrelated but the example remains telling since Croatia joined the EU years later (in 2013, Editor’s note).

Can Ukraine’s presence at the Euro have an influence on its EU accession process?

I don’t think so, but the presence of Ukraine still has an impact because it integrates the context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in Europe. Or at least at its doors. It is also a way of showing that Ukraine is still present, notably through its football team, despite the Russian desire to annihilate the Ukrainian nation and conquer its territory. And it is also a way of giving another image of the country than that of the war.

We know that for the last Euro, before the war, Ukraine used the competition to display the map of its territory, with Crimea, on its jersey. Given that the Euro is an important forum, the Federation could push to put this jersey back forward or the players could carry a message.

Have there been times in the history of the Euro when sport preceded European politics?

It’s more about winks. The one that comes to mind is Euro 1992. That year, the Treaty of Maastricht established the European Union and referendums took place in different countries. Particularly in Denmark, where the population will say no to the treaty.

At the same time, Denmark qualified for the Euro and then won the competition. And as I say at the end of the dedicated chapter, the Danish media then headlined “ Denmark says yes to the Euro “. A year later, even if it is not directly related, the Danes said yes to the second referendum on the Maastricht Treaty.

The interesting question for Euro 2024 is the case of Georgia, where there are political demonstrations with players from the selection who take a stand for the pro-European demonstrators, or at least opposed to the pro-Russian law on foreign influence and repression against the population.

Also see on The HuffPost:

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