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Lahm hopes Euro 2024 can bring Europe together

By AFP - Jun 13,2024 - Last updated at Jun 13,2024

This aerial view taken on April 15 shows the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany (AFP photo)

MUNICH, Germany — Euro 2024 tournament director Philipp Lahm hopes the event will “bring people together” at a time of division and disunity across Europe.

In an interview with AFP subsidiary SID, the 2014 World Cup-winning captain said the true test of the tournament’s success was “when I sense greater solidarity in our society, in Germany and in Europe”.

Full-back Lahm played at the 2006 World Cup, the last time Germany hosted a major football tournament.

That World Cup, known domestically as the “Summer Fairytale”, was credited with bringing the country together as well as helping change Germany’s reputation abroad and the country’s perception of itself.

Lahm said the social impact was a major motivating factor in deciding to take on the job.

“When I think back to the 2006 World Cup at home and what this tournament did to our country, it was clear to me that it is a great task, a privilege.

“I wanted to organise a tournament that is reflective of the times. That means social sustainability, bringing people together to celebrate ourselves and our shared values.

“Around a tournament, a city can do a lot to show what it stands for. The Euro can be used to illustrate our democratic, European values.”

Euro 2024 kicks off when Germany faces Scotland in Munich on Friday, less than a week after far-right parties made significant gains in elections across the continent.

The governing Social Democrats won just 14 per cent of the vote, the worst result in their history.

“I hope at the very least the Euro will lead to a more united Germany again,” said Lahm.

On the pitch, the mood in Germany is improving after almost a decade of poor results.

Germany, which has won the Euros three times in addition to four World Cup victories, made the semifinals in 2016 but have since gone through a poor run at major tournaments.

They were eliminated at the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, their earliest exit in 80 years, before suffering the same fate at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, either side of elimination from Euro 2020 in the last 16 by England.

Julian Nagelsmann was named coach late in 2023 after Hansi Flick became the first manager to be sacked in Germany history.

‘Enthusiastic and euphoric’

After a difficult initiation, Germany has improved in 2024, winning three and drawing one of four friendlies.

“It obviously helps when the German team play exciting football... after disappointing results recently, the team was under pressure,” said Lahm.

“Now that they have played well, you can feel that the public are enthusiastic and euphoric.”

In the opening game of the 2006 World Cup, Lahm scored the first goal of the tournament with a curling effort into the top corner that set Germany on the way to a thrilling 4-2 win against Costa Rica in Munich.

Looking forward to Friday’s curtain-raiser in the same stadium, the 40-year-old said: “A good start is very important. For the atmosphere, but of course also for the team.

“If you get three points in the first game, that gives you security and it would spark even more euphoria.

“I get goosebumps when I think about the opening game.

“I am firmly convinced we will see a successful Euro,” added Lahm.

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