The countdown has officially begun to UEFA EURO 2020 with Dublin ready to shine as a host city for the multi-nation tournament. The Irish capital, with a gleaming stadium standing on the site of the historic Lansdowne Road, will be the venue for three group games and a last 16 tie.
Zinedine Zidane once said of Lansdowne Road: “It is a stadium with a soul” and the old venue retains legendary status among Irish sports fans. Prior to its demolition in 2007, the Ballsbridge site was the oldest sports stadium in Europe and the oldest rugby ground in the world. The first oval-ball game played at the ground was an inter provincial tie between Leinster and Ulster back in December 1876.
Rebuilt as a joint venture between the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland, it now boasts a capacity of 51,700 spectators.
The first international football game at the redeveloped Aviva Stadium was a 1–0 friendly loss against Argentina on 11 August 2010. The stadium hosted the Europa League final in 2011 and is also the setting each year for the FAI Cup final.
Part of the charm of the Dublin arena is its close proximity to the city centre and the Irish captial’s famed bars and pubs, making it a firm favourite for travelling fans. Now it’s set to welcome thousand of football supporters in 2020. Unsurprisingly Germany are already installed as favourites for the tournament by bwin, ahead of France and reigning champions Portugal.
It’s not the first time Dublin sought to host the tournament. Ireland and Scotland, somewhat infamously, submitted a joint bid for the 2008 championship. Legend says the Giants’ Causeway was built between both countries so two warriors could fight one another after the Scot hurled insults in this direction. Following the doomed pitch, the barbs kept coming westwards when Ireland seemingly ruined the chance to co-host the finals with our neighbour.
In the fall-out from 2008, the consensus was that Scotland were kicking themselves for asking the Irish. However, like England’s quest to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, our joint-proposal was not without its conspiracies.
England’s bid was widely regarded as possessing the best technical plan with the stadia already in place. The FA’s standing with Sepp Blatter had always been on shaky ground and the decision to award the tournaments to Russia and Qatar came with a wave of recriminations. Similar ructions emerged regarding Ireland’s bid with Scotland.
The 1998 FIFA election that first saw Blatter become president was dogged by allegations of pay-offs and political favours. David Will, the then Scottish vice president and lawyer, was quoted some days after the decision in Paris as saying the suspicion of corruption would always overshadow the election. Some claim Blatter held a grudge from that point on.
The joke goes that officials were given a whirlwind tour of Dublin that took in no stadiums. UEFA were blown away by their tour of Croke Park, only to be told soccer was not allowed at the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, (a rule which was subsequently changed while Lansdowne was rebuilt). The delegation were then brought across the city to Ballsbridge to see a ramshackle Landsdowne Road that was falling apart but were assured it would be redeveloped.
Then it was a quick hop out to the M50 motorway to be shown an empty field where the great edifice in tribute to our glorious leader, the Bertie Bowl was to be erected. The fiasco of the collapse of the then government’s plan to build a 65,000 all-seater stadium on Dublin’s western outskirts did untold damage to the original Celtic bid.
Despite our hotels, modern infrastructure and assurances that it would be one of the best fans’ tournament in history with the Scots and Irish as hosts, it failed to stop the judging panel eliminating our bid in the first round.
Yet the rifts were healed when the nations united along with Wales to launch an initial Celtic interest in the 2020 event. With Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan the other interested parties, the western-Europe project stood a great chance of success, until UEFA president Michel Platini decided to alter the competition’s format as a one-off to mark the 60th birthday of the competition first held in 1960.
The FAI were not to be denied, however, with Dublin named as one of the host cities for the unique tournament in four years’ time. The Irish fans were renowned for their good humour and behaviour at the most recent European Championship in France. Now they get to open their doors and repay the favour.
The full list of UEFA Euro 2020 stadiums is Amsterdam Arena (Amsterdam) Baku National Stadium (Baku) San Mamés Stadium (Bilbao) Eurostadium (Brussels) Arena Națională (Bucharest) New Puskás Ferenc Stadium (Budapest) Parken Stadium (Copenhagen) Aviva Stadium (Dublin).
Main image: Tarafuku10