Rome, with its ancient tradition for sport and a majestic backdrop of architectural wonder, will be a perfect setting for hosting the best of European football when the biggest EURO ever hits the Italian city.
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For Gabriele Gravina, the Italian Football Association (FIGC) president, taking EURO to 12 host cities throughout the continent will be “the purest and best” tournament possible to celebrate 60 years of the competition.
“It is the right format for football: a football moves around, it rolls, it goes from place to place, engaging with many countries and many different cultures,” Gravina says. “I think it is the purest and the best format of football we can have for the EURO competition. Italy has long-lasting ties with football, we have a football culture and we are very passionate about it. Italy is always eager to show the world its football, as well as its natural and cultural beauties.
“Bidding to host some of the EURO 2020 matches, especially on the competition’s 60th anniversary, was an excellent idea and I am sure it is going to be an unforgettable event.”
Fresh from hosting a successful European Under-21 Championship final tournament, Italy is now focused on generating even more excitement for an unforgettable festival for the senior men’s teams, hosting three group games (including the opening match) and a quarter-final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The iconic stadium has undergone several makeovers since officially opening in 1953 and currently seats around 68,000.
The Stadio Olimpico is no stranger to UEFA events, having staged four European Cup finals in 1977, 1984, 1996 and 2009, while its pedigree for big shows stretches back as far as 1960, when Rome hosted the Olympics. For Gravina, the FIGC and the local organising structure, however, it is a perfect opportunity to showcase Rome’s treasure trove of art and architectural splendour, from the Colosseum to the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon.
“We will have the chance to show our culture, to demonstrate our professionalism and our organisational abilities,” Gravina adds, “Rome is the Eternal City, a place that signifies history. Everyone loves Rome and I am sure Rome will do its best to rise to the occasion.”
Gravina believes the welcoming, friendly people of Rome will create a lasting impression for fans travelling to the city. “We have the chance to display our hospitality most of all, which is so important in the world of football. Italy is a very welcoming country and we will prove it, with great love, care, and by extending the hand of friendship to every fan who will visit us during EURO 2020.”
With Francesco Totti on board as local ambassador and Gianluca Vialli as volunteers ambassador, Rome has some legendary names lending their support to the event. With a volunteer programme fully under way, as well as exciting plans for the fan zones and the UEFA festival, it is set to be a wonderful summer in Rome.
Gravina explains: “We are working with enthusiasm on organising the event together with the government, the city and all the stakeholders involved. Rome will shine, with its spectacular fan zone within a unique area in the world, with the Olympic Stadium renovated for the occasion and with the passion of the Italian fans. After the events promoted in the city for the 500 days and one year to go events, we have scheduled the European Qualifier between Italy and Greece in Rome on 12 October, which will be another stage towards the inaugural EURO 2020 match”.
On the pitch, the national team are focused on securing qualification and their right to play in Rome at EURO 2020, while both Rome clubs, Lazio and AS Roma, have offered their full support to make the tournament a success.
“From the beginning, our two clubs from the Italian capital have made themselves available to the fullest extent,” Gravina says. “And we want to thank them for that, we really appreciate everything they do for us. The Italian team is a religion. Our blue shirt is an icon which is in the mind, in the eyes and in the heart of many Italians.”
The fact there will be an unmissable celebration in Rome, with some of the very best European football on show, is unequivocal. Yet what kind of legacy does Gravina hope EURO 2020 will leave behind in Rome and Italian football?
“We believe it will have an impact in three areas,” the president explains. “First of all, selfishly, we hope it will be a fantastic experience for everyone, we are collaborating with UEFA and we believe our participation will prove to be an excellent, useful event for us and for all of our partners who are closely involved.
“Furthermore, we want to capitalise on this experience in the future and to prove that Italy is able to deal with hosting such a high-profile event. We’ll involve everybody. We believe that this event is not only a UEFA event, an FIGC event or just for the city of Rome. It’s an event that everybody in the football world loves. It’s an event for the fans. It’s an event for everybody who loves our world.”
The Italian capital is a perennial hotspot for visitors seeking out history and culture – not to mention glamorous football pedigree. The Eternal City enjoys a reputation as the birthplace of western civilisation and boasts countless must-see attractions, from the Colosseum to St Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. No less iconic is the Stadium Olimpico, originally opened in 1937 and the venue for the third European Championship final in 1968, when hosts Italy defeated Yugoslavia 2-0. It was there too that West Germany won the tournament decider in 1980, before returning to a city that lives and breathes football to clinch the World Cup in 1990.
12 June: Group A match
17 June: Group A match
21 June: Group A match
4 July: Quarter-final
This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 186