Finland will play the UEFA European Football Championship for the first time this year. The tournament, which was to have been played in 2020, was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will take place between June 11 and July 11, 2021 in 11 different countries.
Football is a sport that raises many passions in Finland and this will be a historic championship for the Nordic country, because it is the first time that its team is going to participate in a major international tournament. However, the Eagel Owls (or Huuhkajat, as Finnish players are called) may have to play without their supporters in the stadium stands, if they all follow the recommendations of the health authorities.
Finland is scheduled to play its first-round matches in the relatively close cities Copenhagen (Denmark) and Saint Petersburg (Russia).
But soccer passion is destined to clash with the National Institute for Health and Well-being (THL), which issued a statement on Monday to warn that Finns should continue to avoid all but the most essential travel, both domestic and foreign. "This also applies to the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship which takes place in June and July this year," says the health agency.
“It is fantastic that Finland will get to play in Euro 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic has not gone anywhere, and the same recommendations apply to Euro 2020 as they do to all travel. That is why, unfortunately, it is better to watch the championship at home”, says THL Director Mika Salminen, who is described as "a confessed football fan himself" in the statement.
Finland will play its first match on 12 June against Denmark in Copenhagen. On 16 June the Eagle Owls will face Russia in St. Petersburg and on 21 June Finland will play against Belgium, also in St. Petersburg.
Traveling, a 'significant risk'
THL reminds that, although the coronavirus situation has eased in Finland in recent weeks, the incidence of the disease "remains high in many other countries."
In St. Petersburg, the incidence rate is currently 187 cases per 100,000 people, while in Finland it is 52. In Denmark, the incidence rate is 200 cases per 100,000 people.
“Travelling to the matches entails a significant risk of infection: even though the number of spectators has been limited, there will be thousands of spectators at the stadiums, and some of them could come from countries where the infection rate is high. With bad luck, a sport tourist returning to Finland could infect friends and family, for example”, Salminen says.
“Even someone who has been vaccinated once could get an infection and can spread the disease forward”, he adds.
Denmark currently requires arriving travelers to show a certificate of a negative result of a coronavirus test that has been taken no more than 48 hours before departure. A second test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival, excluding those under the age of 12.
Russian officials have not yet revealed the conditions under which football tourists will be allowed into the country.