Between fear of the pandemic and anti-Spanish nationalism, Bilbao on the verge of losing the reception of the Euro football

The prospect of Euro football matches taking place in Bilbao, in the Spanish Basque country, seems to be receding. The regional president, the Lehendakari, Iñigo Urkullu, interviewed Monday April 12 on Radio Euskadi, was clear: he will not lower the extremely demanding sanitary conditions that he has set to accommodate the public in the San Mamés stadium during the competition: ” No. I will be guided by health criteria “, decided on the air the political leader, elected of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

More than 60% of the population vaccinated or less than 2% of intensive care units occupied by Covid-19 patients: the conditions set by the government of the Basque Country (Euskadi) are quite simply “Impossible to complete”, regretted the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), in a bitter statement published on April 7.

The latter went so far as to warn that “The decision that UEFA will take” on a possible change of location of the matches “Will not be of [sa] responsibility “. Currently, only 6% of the Basque population is vaccinated, and intensive care units are 23% occupied by Covid-19 patients.

However, the European body wants spectators in the stadiums during the competition to be held from June 11 to July 11 in twelve countries. For that, she left until April 19 in Bilbao – just like in Munich, Rome and Dublin -, to clarify her plans.

Read also Euro 2021 football: four host countries in the hot seat, asked to accept to welcome the public

Anti-Euro demonstration

Those of the Basque government should ultimately not change, even if it means losing the reception of matches. Much to the chagrin of the mayor of Bilbao, Juan Maria Aburto (PNV), who proposes to limit the gauge to 25%, which would still correspond to 13,000 spectators in the San Mames stadium. According to the city’s calculations, the economic benefits could reach 84 million euros.

“Health must be above all else”, insisted Mr. Urkullu, who recalled that the Spanish health ministry has just banned the King’s Cup final to be played in the presence of the public. According to him, there is a “Politically interested controversy” around the case.

The controversy has been alive for several days, some seeing, under cover of a pandemic, a boycott of the Spanish team by the Basque separatists. “Sectarian nationalism demands impossible conditions as an excuse to refuse Europa in Bilbao and thus prevent Spain from playing at San Mames”, indignant Carlos Garcia, city councilor of Bilbao for the Popular Party (PP, right), on television sets and social networks.

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