Euro football has a strange connection with politics. In 2012, debt-ridden Greece went to a crucial polling while the competition to win the continental football crown was on. In 2016, too, the tournament coincides with the UK's referendum to remain in the European Union on June 23. [Explained: UK referendum of June 23]
In fact, by the time the UK will go to polling, the group stages of Euro 2016 will be done with and the fates of England, Wales (they are in the same group) and Northern Ireland will be clear. [From the archives: Euro 2012: From crisis to carnival]
The UK's football-politics connection is not happening for the first time, either. In 1970, just four days before the UK went to polls, the then West Germany had beaten holders England in the quarter-finals of the World Cup (Brazil won the title for the third time that year to take possession of the Jules Rimet Cup) and a low turnout in the election and the Conservatives led by Edward Heath tasted a narrow victory.
Will the outcome for England, Wales & Northern Ireland in Euro affect the referendum of June 23?
Could the outcome of the referendum this year be influenced by the preliminary results of the Euro football? What if England fails to make the knock-outs and a story similar to 1970 unfolds again? Or to the contrary, if a referee from say France gives an atrocious decision packing the British home in the group stages, will the voters come out in droves to take the 'revenge' against the EU? [Full schedule of Euro 2016 & IST timings]
One may think to connect the football results with an important political event is something overstretched, but it can't be denied that the English audience loves to engage with Europe in football and any feat or upset on the turf can have its repercussions in the political decision the soccer buffs make.
Besides referendum, Euro 2016 is also important from viewpoint of Europe's overall trouble
Besides the Brexit question, Euro 2016 is also significant from the viewpoint of the European experience. Europe, the continent which had shown the path forward to the rest of the planet, has had faced serious economic, social and political challenges over the last 10 years. [Copa, Euro: A World Cup divided by the Atlantic]
Following the global meltdown and the Eurozone crisis of the late 2000s, Europe has faced the biggest peace-time migration problem, caused by multiple reasons like Syrian civil war, spread of terrorism and backlash among the minority segments. The twin trouble of refugee influx and terrorism and the crisis they have brought with have seen political ramifications.
Across Europe, the centrist parties have faced a backlash from the people who have felt disillusioned and the extreme right and left, ultra-nationalists and secessionists who are not convinced about the liberal project in Europe have found a strong voice.
Can football make up for failed politics?
In this challenging environment, can Euro 2016 provide the remedy to the failed politics and unite Europe's wounded soul? The tournament is taking place under a strong watch---both of the jihadis and the security forces---in France which has been left bloodied a number of times in the recent past.
There have already been reports about terrorists planning to target the tournament and massive security mechanism has been put in place to thwart any kind of attack on the venues.
Can Euro come out clean and restore the lost faith of humanity?