The European Championship in England: High-class, diverse and tolerant


21.07.2022 Reading time: 3 min

Brentford, west London, 17:00 local time. It's a hot summer day by London standards, the temperature is around 30°. 

I'm sitting with friends on the banks of the Thames in front of one of the many pubs, a few minutes' walk from the Community Stadium in Brentford, enjoying a cool beer. 

The sun's rays reflect in the cool water, and the anticipation of the rest of the evening increases by minute to minute.

The most important soccer tournament of the year!? 

What are we looking forward to? The opening match of the European Championship for the German national team against Denmark! And we are not alone. 15,000 soccer fans join us on a slow pilgrimage from pub to pub in the direction of the stadium, including several thousand from Germany and Denmark, who traveled especially for the European Championship. 

The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It is moments like these that we look forward to every summer, the time of the World Cups and European Championships in soccer.  

Well, almost always anyway. Every now and then, a few corrupt sports officials get the idea that such a tournament would also look good in Qatar. In winter. The cozy beer on the riverbank then becomes a utopia. At least on site. Alcohol will only be available in a few selected places, and at horrendous prices. 

And our group? Wouldn't be legal officially. One of my friends is lesbian, the other bisexual. Both involved in the community. Homosexuality is still forbidden in Qatar. Accordingly, homosexual visitors have already been asked by the Emir to "respect the culture of the country." 

So the European Championship in England stands for everything we love about soccer – international exchange, celebrating together, diversity, tolerance – and much of what will be banned or at least limited at the World Cup in a few months. 

Top class soccer

And whether the World Cup can keep up with this European Championship on the pitch is the next, completely justified question. What Europe's best teams are currently offering us on English turf is world-class and entertaining. 

The Germans win their opening match against disappointing Danes 4:0 and inspire with dynamic and creative offensive soccer. A few days later – we are back on site – the German team shows a different, but no less impressive face against Spain.  

With a fantastic defensive performance, the Spanish – unfortunately without their world footballer Alexia Putellas, who is injured in the cruciate ligament – are defeated 2:0. The temperatures are even higher, the game even more intense. 

The following day, my personal time in England comes to an end. Unfortunately. With the hope and firm belief that the German team around our brand ambassador Lina Magull will be allowed to stay a little longer, I return to Munich with European Championship fever in my luggage. 

Because this European Championship is exciting. Especially in terms of soccer. And not just for the German team. We're almost a little more excited about the overall high level of performance and the visible development of women's soccer as a whole.  

Technically and tactically, the game has long since reached the level of the men's game, and Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's team is showing a class and variability that we haven't been able to admire in its male counterparts since 2014. Athletically, too, this European Championship sets new standards. Or in the words of the elderly English soccer lover who sat behind me in the game against Spain and commented on the match as follows:
"I've never seen such an intensity. Maybe Klopp against Guardiola."

Attendances explode

The logical consequence? People go to the stadium and watch these games. After 16 of 31 games, this European Championship had already set a new attendance record with 248,075 stadium visitors. In the end, it will probably be half a million. 

This also shows that the Bundesliga, with its average attendance of around 1,000 in recent years, is neither up to date nor representative.  

In Barcelona, over 90,000 watched the quarterfinals and semifinals of the UWCL against Real Madrid and VfL Wolfsburg. 

At the opening European Championship match between England and Austria, almost 70,000 made the pilgrimage to venerable Old Trafford. The final at Wembley Stadium was completely sold out even before the first game.  

A total of just under 9,000 tickets have been sold to Germany so far. For the World Cup in Qatar, there are not even half as many so far. 

And soccer is also being played and, above all, watched elsewhere. Morocco is currently hosting the Africa Cup, where the Moroccan women have qualified for the final. The number of spectators for the semifinal against Nigeria? 45,000!


The road ahead...

While we in Germany still have to worry about the miserable spectator numbers in the domestic leagues, soccer in other countries has long been understood as a sport for the whole of society, with its underlying individual diversity.

In England, a completely different debate is currently taking place. In the mother country of soccer, whose first league last season had four times as many spectators as in our country, the issue of ethnic diversity is being discussed during the European Championship. 

It is no longer a question of acceptance and respect for women's soccer – something that has been successfully worked on for a long time – but rather that it is too "white" and does not represent the entire social diversity of the country.  

It would be presumptuous to say "fine who can afford such problems". We should see it much more as an incentive and motivation. Our path to equality still has a long way to go. And inequality has many facets!

What a potential! 

Basically, however, support and enthusiasm prevail at the moment. Support for the players and those responsible, who are presenting this soccer festival for us and are fantastic ambassadors for our sport. Enthusiasm for what we are seeing on a daily basis.  

Women's soccer is setting new standards and showing us its full potential. On the one hand, as a "new" market for television, sponsors and all other economic players in the sport. On the other hand, to redefine soccer as a sport and an event. This social dimension should by no means be forgotten in all the hype. 

The audience at this European Championship is young and diverse. It is the future of our society. This soccer is characterized by intensity and fairness. Hardly any swallows, no hollywood-like malingering, and a great deal of respect for the referees and their decisions. Moreover, it knows much less toxic masculinity, racism or homophobia. On and off the field.  

Of course, fan camps are less institutionalized and fan culture itself is only just emerging. Elaborate choreographies and a multitude of fan chants remain in short supply. Soccer purists like me are missing exactly that at the moment, the trend is toward event audiences. But it would be unfair not to give this development and these fans a chance to excite us as much as the action on the pitch.  

Because the enthusiasm is contagious. The soccer on the pitch is great. The European Championship in England is in many ways exemplary of what soccer should be in the 21st century: younger, more female, more diverse, more tolerant. 

Dear Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of Qatar: This is what we will respect!

About the author

Our author Jan-Philipp Grande (27) was a footballer himself for almost 20 years. Most recently, he studied International Sports Development and Politics (M.A.) at the Sports University in Cologne. His passion for football - also due to the lack of his own talent - goes beyond the sporting side. He deals intensively with the social and political background of football and sport in general. Since 2020 also for B42, meanwhile as Head of Corporate Social Responsibility.