Fate of Euro 2020 to be decided as UEFA set for crisis meeting

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin during the UEFA Congress. (Files/Reuters)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Fate of Euro 2020 to be decided as UEFA set for crisis meeting

  • Future of European Championship is up in the air along with those of Champions, Europa Leagues

LONDON: A decision over whether to postpone football's Euro 2020 by up to a year, with all the sporting and financial consequences that would entail, is set to be made when UEFA holds a crisis meeting on Tuesday as Europe battles the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

European football's governing body will hold a videoconference with representatives from all 55 member associations as well as from clubs and players’ bodies. UEFA will then hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) at their Swiss headquarters.
The future of the European Championship, due to take place for the first time in 12 different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is up in the air along with those of the Champions League and Europa League.
The “dark scenarios” that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organization’s congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.
All of Europe’s leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week, while UEFA suspended all Champions League and Europa League games due to be played this week. Both tournaments are still in the last-16 stage.
Europe has become the center of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain on lockdown, France gradually following suit, and other countries closing borders to halt the spread of the outbreak.
More than 1,800 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.
The head of the Italian Football Federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed that the Euro be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.
“We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021,” Mancini told television station Rai Sport.
It is a position that many around the continent are coming round to amid much uncertainty as to when club football can resume.
“UEFA has no choice. They have to postpone the Euro and the Champions League,” one senior figure in the world game told AFP, although finding agreement across the board may not be easy.
“There are people who want to play, and others who don’t,” French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet told broadcaster TF1 on Sunday.
German broadcaster ZDF reported that two possible options are on the table for the European Championship.
One is to push it back to 2021, although that is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe’s top club sides involved.
FIFA offered “no comment” on Monday on the matter.
There is also the issue of the women's European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semifinals and final of Euro 2020.
The alternative option, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it towards the end of the year.
That supposes that the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.
Le Graet said “it is probable” that all friendly matches scheduled to be played at the end of this month will be postponed. Playoff matches to decide the last four berths at Euro 2020 can be expected to go the same way.
In any case, world governing body FIFA has already moved to say that clubs no longer need to release players for the scheduled international dates.
They may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semifinals could be decided in one-off matches.
From a financial viewpoint, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to canceling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors.
“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don't know about UEFA or the different leagues.”
In any case, the European Leagues grouping of almost a thousand clubs in 29 countries across the continent warned that “cooperation, coordination and flexibility are going to be essential.”

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

Updated 08 July 2020

Lin Dan retirement ends era of ‘Chinese sports superstar’

  • The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded

SHANGHAI: The retirement of two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan signals the end of a golden era of Chinese sporting superstars, state media said on Tuesday.

Arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, the 36-year-old said on Saturday that he was bringing the curtain down on a career that also brought five world titles.

NBA All-Star Yao Ming, Olympic gold-medal hurdler Liu Xiang and two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Li Na have all retired in the last decade.

“With the ‘Super Dan’ curtain call, people cannot help but sigh,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The era of the superstar that once belonged to Chinese sports has faded.

“When will the next Lin Dan appear? Or when will the next Yao Ming, Liu Xiang and Li Na appear?

“Where is the next Chinese sports superstar who will create a collective memory for us?”

The quartet were not just world leaders in their sport and popular in China, but also had “considerable influence in the international arena and became a window for the world to understand China,” Xinhua said.

Of prominent Chinese athletes left, women’s volleyball player Zhu Ting has the potential to rise to superstar level, Xinhua said, while disgraced swimmer Sun Yang “enjoys high popularity (in China), but unfortunately he is banned.” 

The 28-year-old is appealing against an 8-year ban for refusing to give a doping sample. The three-time Olympic freestyle champion’s career will effectively be over if he loses his appeal at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

China has world champions in other sports, and finished third behind the US and Britain in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but they are not generally well-known even inside the country, Xinhua said.

Table tennis player Zhang Jike, another three-time Olympic gold medalist, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lin, said the Oriental Sports Daily.

But at 32 his best days are behind him and as far back as 2016 he signaled his intention to retire, before having a change of heart.

“When will the next Lin Dan and China’s next sports superstar appear again?” asked the newspaper.

“This question may not be answered in a short space of time.”