Tonight is a big night for football fans all over the world, as the UEFA European Championship 2016 kicks off at the Stade de France, with the opening game pitting France against Romania.
However, not all is well in the country hosting the first match of the championship, as reforms to labour law have made French workers in public transport and rubbish collection to extend their strikes and protests just before the big event.
Train drivers, for instance, have threatened to strike on a line serving the Stade de France, the very stadium in St Denis that will host Friday evening’s match, and Air France pilots have announced a four-day walkout over pay, thus cancelling up to 30 percent of flights. Additionally, it is reported that around 3,000 tonnes of garbage have gone uncollected in Paris.
That’s why, on Euro 2016 eve, French President Francois Hollande warned trade unions against attempts to disrupt the football tournament and said he would do everything to ensure the competition would take place without incidents and protests did not spoil it in any way.
‘I appeal to everyone’s sense of responsibility because if the state must do its duty – and it will, it will take all the measures that are necessary,’ Hollande declared on Thursday.
It seems that the European Championship has not managed to tone down people’s dissatisfaction with the government’s reforms, and besides that, there are concerns about terror threats during the football championship, as the November jihadist terror attacks in Paris, which caused 130 casualties, are still fresh in people’s minds.
Thousands of extra police officers have been deployed across France, given that millions of foreign visitors and football fans are expected to enter the country in this period, and any location that draws people together can turn into a target.
Meanwhile, in England, anticipation is building up, with estimates saying that half a million British football fans will travel to France over the following weeks to attend the four Euro 2016 matches hosted by the southern city of Marseille, including England’s encounter with Russia on Saturday.