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Germany eyes huge party as it hosts Euro 2024 amid global turmoil

By AFP

May 13, 2024 10:45 AM


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Germany is gearing up to host the Euro 2024 football championship under high security as global threats cast a shadow, but on the field, the home team will be looking to prove they are finally back in form.

Six weeks before the start of the Paris Olympics, Germany will be the centre of the European football world's attention when the hosts face Scotland in the curtain-raiser in Munich on June 14.

While 2022 World Cup finalists France are favourites alongside England, Germany are enjoying new-found belief after wins against the French and the Netherlands in March.

The team's young coach, 36-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, was to have left the international set-up after the tournament but in a sign of his confidence in the team he is moulding, he has signed on until the 2026 World Cup finals despite reported interest from former club Bayern Munich.

It augurs well too that Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen will be in the Europa League final against Atalanta on May 22, while Borussia Dortmund will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London on June 1.

On Thursday, both Germany and France will announce their 26-man Euro 2024 squads, with England doing so the following Thursday.

As the lead of the tournament organising committee, former Germany defender Philipp Lahm said he was looking forward to a "big festival together" but admitted the tournament would be better if Germany performed well.

"It always helps when the home team is in the tournament for a long time," the 2014 World Cup-winning captain told AFP in a recent interview.

- Mammoth task -

Euro 2024 takes place three years after the previous tournament, which was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hosted in countries across the continent with the final at Wembley, the 2021 edition took place in front of drastically reduced capacity.

This time around, there will be no more restrictions -- and the stadiums are expected to be packed.

An estimated 2.7 million fans will attend 51 matches across 10 stadiums, culminating in the final at Berlin's Olympic Stadium on July 14.

But even more will be outside the grounds, with each host city setting up fan zones ready to welcome the 12 million supporters expected to come to the country.

- Attack threats -

The tournament however also takes place against the backdrop of a tense global climate with major conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, making securing the event a mammoth task.

Germany has been on high alert for Islamist attacks since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

An attack in Moscow, claimed by the Islamic State group, at the end of March which claimed 144 lives, had cast a further shadow over security at the tournament.

The Champions League quarter-final first legs in Paris, London and Madrid in April were all held under close surveillance after an apparent threat made by Islamic State.

Likewise, additional security measures were in place for the 'Der Klassiker' match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in March at the Allianz Arena, which hosts the opening match of the Euros.

The background is reminiscent of the lead-up to Euro 2016 in France which took place just after attacks in Paris and Brussels, including an attempted suicide bombing at the Stade de France during a France-Germany game.

Officials will however be hoping Euro 2024 will be like the 2016 edition, which took place safely in a jubilant atmosphere of celebration.

Massive security challenge

Keeping fans and players safe will be a mammoth task for Germany as it hosts Euro 2024 this summer in a tense global climate with major conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

From hooligans to potential terrorist attacks and even cyberattacks, the European Championship organisers will be looking to ward off a range of threats.

Security forces will be charged with protecting some 2.7 million fans, 24 team base camps spread across the country and ten stadiums where 51 matches will be played between June 14 and July 14.

Designated fan zones are also expected to attract around 12 million visitors.

"From the outset, security has been our top priority," tournament director Philipp Lahm told AFP.

In an unprecedented move, Germany has invited some 300 security experts from all nations playing in the tournament to take part in a monitoring project at the International Police Cooperation Centre (IPCC) in the western city of Neuss.

Alongside officials from Germany, Europol and European football body UEFA, they will take turns to monitor the situation on the ground, gathering during the tournament in a huge 500-square-metre (5,382-square-foot) conference room equipped with 129 computers and a 40-square-metre screen, AFP saw on a visit to the facility.

- No leave for police -

"Each country knows its troublemakers better than any other, and the foreign experts present in Neuss will be able to identify them more quickly," Oliver Strudthoff, director of the IPCC, told AFP.

"The size of the delegations will depend on the number of fans and how potentially dangerous they are. England, for example, will have many more representatives than Switzerland," he said.

At the matches themselves, all hands will be on deck -- police have been forbidden from taking leave during the tournament.

Germany will also introduce security controls on all of its nine borders.

"On trains and in stations, the federal police will be visibly stepping up their presence," said a spokesman for the German interior ministry. The same applies to airports.

French gendarmes will support the German police by taking part in joint rail patrols on routes to and from France and at matches involving the French team.

The British government has said that more than 1,600 English and Welsh supporters who are hit with stadium bans because of previous violent behaviour, will be banned from travelling to Germany during the tournament.

- Triple perimeters -

On top of the standard measures, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has said the Ukrainian national team will be subject to enhanced security.

Between 800 and 1,300 police will be deployed around the stadiums at each match, depending on the teams playing.

In a bid to prevent anyone from entering a match with weapons or explosives, three security perimeters will be set up around each stadium.

Cars will be checked at the first barrier, while fans will have their bags searched at the second, before scanning their tickets at the third.

The fan zones will also present a security challenge, especially the largest one at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate which is set to welcome tens of thousands of visitors for every match.

These "soft targets" are more vulnerable because "it's easier for perpetrators to infiltrate (them) and take action", said Johannes Saal, a security expert at the University of Lucerne.

The German army will also monitor the sky from the National Air Security Center, located some 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the IPCC.

The use of drones will be closely monitored, with flight restriction zones.

"Major sporting events are always potential targets for terrorist attacks," said Saal, describing the security situation as "very tense" in the context of the war in Gaza and the ever-present threat of Islamist extremism.


AFP


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