EURO 2020: Waiting for the whistle

UEFA Euro is always a long-awaited competition, particularly this year in Macedonia. The national team qualified for the first time in its history for this championship. But how did people in Macedonia prepare for this event? This is what we tried to find out.

Sports Europe is counting the last days before starting the European championship in football. For the first time in its history, this year will be organized in 11 cities around the “old continent“ with the 24 best teams of Europe. For the first time since the beginning of the Euro in 1960, Macedonia (independent since 1991) will take part in this biggest football competition in Europe. Because of that, the atmosphere in the country is getting warmer and warmer.

In Skopje streets, the event seems to be welcomed by restaurants and pubs’ owners and workers as an event full of uncertainty and excitement. In this period of the epidemic, no one – whether government officials or pub owners – knows how the curve of cases and deaths linked to the Covid-19 will evolve over the next few weeks. Likewise, they cannot anticipate what kind of measures will be implemented: for the moment, governmental regulations require separate tables in restaurants in pubs, with one-and-a-half to two meters distance. The atmosphere in capital of the country towards this event is particular, reactions to it ranging from impatience to hope.

Sven Kucinic – Unsplash

People we interviewed were looking forward to experiencing the Euro, despite the uncertainty linked to potential harsher measures: this is of course explained by the fact that it is the first time the Macedonian football team is qualified for such an important tournament, which obviously triggers emotion across the country. Projectors and big screens are going to be set up in restaurants and pubs of the capital especially for the event to channel inhabitants’ enthusiasm, but also for business purposes. This is what a barman confided to us when we came to his place:

“So many beers are going to be sold… We are going to organize promotions on drinks to take full advantage of this event as to improve our sales“. Several other pubs confided to us they had a similar project in mind.

The support for the national team across the city is indisputable: some of the interviewed people were very optimistic that their team might come to an end with the competition, but most of the interviewed people believe or hope that Macedonian football players can beat Austria (13 June) and Ukraine (17 June), which are their direct opponents in the group stage in which also is Netherlands (21 June). This would be an achievement that would send them straight to the round of last sixteen something, which would represent an even greater feat for Macedonia.

For the moment, bartenders and restaurateurs remain cautious and realistic, divided between those who think the team has chances to perform positive results and those who are much more pessimistic. Overall, most of them consider that the Macedonian team currently possesses a lot of qualities: this is the message a bartender we interviewed conveyed when he told us that „there are a lot of good quality players in the national team; it is the first time Macedonian players have managed to reach a professional level, I think that they will be difficult to beat“. Another barman, who was personally acquainted with some of the Macedonian football players involved in the Euro team, revealed to us: “I am confident. There is a good atmosphere in the team, so I think they have a chance». Obviously, this good mentality among the obviously good omen for success in this kind of competition“.

Vienna Reyes – Unsplash

Whatever the odds, and from the spectators’ perspective, this wave of enthusiasm throughout the capital will be difficult to overcome: a lot of travel agencies throughout the town have also considered this point as they have plans to channel this wave in store: firstly, airplane and bus tickets are being sold at the moment for the fans who are willing to travel to support their team in Bucharest or Amsterdam in the group stage. Macedonian supporters can move to Romania or the Netherlands by selecting one flight or bus company among several choices, but with following the latest updates and information about traveling and going to Bucharest and Amsterdam.

Macedonian supporters have the opportunity to choose accommodation in Romania and the Netherlands thanks to these travel agencies in Skopje. Some of them have partnerships with local hostels located in Bucharest and Amsterdam, the towns where the matches involving Macedonia will take place. Because of the existence of these partnerships, not all local accommodations are of course available, one travel agency telling us « that it cannot offer us lodgings in youth hostels, hostels being the only places we can book which are available ».

At last, among those options, supporters could buy tickets for international matches, but all of them for sold in record time. After all, everyone is aware that Macedonian’s participation in this competition is historical and maybe for many people, for now, a unique chance to be part of this special event.

Yvan Barbeau

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