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By Vera Martirosyan

PARIS. - Euro 2016, the most expected football event of the year, kicked off Friday. Once in four years Europe determines its strongest team. As usual, the Championship is opened by the hosts, this time the French. According to the bookmakers, they are the championship favorites.

Watching the Euro 2016 ceremony opening and the first match is every fan’s dream. I’m also enormously happy to attend the opening match of the Championship. The match and the opening together lasted for about two hours, there being dozens of times more emotions before and after the match.

I would like to start the story with mentioning that getting Euro 2016 accreditation does not yet mean that one can attend the opening match. Especially if you are the representative of a country which is not taking part in the Championship.

 

 

 

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A few hours before the match, I headed for Stande de France stadium in Saint-Denis. I live in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, whose metro line takes directly to Saint-Denis. It takes 15 minutes to reach there, but this was not the case. The train came, the doors opened and squeezed people remained hanging on the doors.

The wagons were full, and the number of those who wanted to enter was not small either. The conductor made a gesture by hand, implying that he could do nothing. I could hardly get on the train. For the first time I felt in the status of chips. Then I saw a very weird guy standing by my side with a dark blue bag in his hand. He was nervously looking round, telling each stop to someone by phone. At that moment I started imagining all of use now blasting, and my entire life passed in front of my eyes. This is the result of the ubiquitous fear climate which has overwhelmed Europe during the last months.  Then the metro passengers began to unanimously sing Allez les blues, Vive la France; the train gave football signals and I remembered I was going to Euro 2016 opening match.

Those who were getting out of metro were painted in the colors of the French flag.

To my surprise, there were also many Romanian fans, 15,000 of them, who occupied half of the northern tier. As I have already mentioned, the security was beefed up near the stadium due to the security concerns.

The tickets sold in front of the stadium were thrice more expensive, the VIP zone ticket prices reaching 7000 euro. In fact, France has spent 1.7 billion euro only on the construction and reparation of its stadiums.  The French constantly said they didn’t need this championship, since the country had various social issues. The pilots also joined the strike of the bus drivers, but all this remained outside the stadium.

Crowded Stade de France was waiting for the Euro 2016 opening. For the first time I was sitting in the section for commentators and not journalists.  On my right was one of the most famous Russian commentators, Vladimir Stogniyenko, who was commenting the opening match. On my left was former French football star Bixente Lizarazu, who also worked as a commentator at French television. Below were Karembeu and Mathieu, and a bit further other football stars.

A month prior to Euro 2016 opening ceremony, all the TV channels showed the Championship song performed by David Guetta and Zara Larsson. Of course, this very song was performed at the opening. In fact, Guetta’s song can be heard everywhere in France in the recent days.

The field turned into joyful France: joyous merry-go-rounds, 600 dancers, and then one of France’s symbols, the Eiffel Tower. The planes left the trace of the French flag colors in the air. The flags of all the 24 teams were installed in the stands. The anthems were performed and then the match started.

The first half proved to be sad, the second one being much more cheerful. Dmitri Payet became the hero of the match with his goal and goal assist. In fact, this young man worked as a shop assistant ten years ago, and now he is the joy of France.

The French were happy, the Romanians being disillusioned. But with this game the latter proved they have a word to say during Euro-2016. In fact, Romania is the future rival of the Armenian national squad.

After the match, most of the French footballers were sad; they had won but were hurrying to leave the stadium. The reason was the not very impressive game. Antoine Griezmann, who is one of the most communicative and kind footballers, simply ran away. And only cold-hearted Paul Pogba went out with a calm smile, even managing to take photos with some of the journalists, including me…

But the most interesting thing was to happen after the match. The metro worked till 12:30 am, there was no taxi and I had to reach the hotel. Suddenly a taxi approached, and I had hardly managed to get happy when the driver informed that instead of the usual 15 euro, the price was 80 euro today. Having no other choice, I couldn’t but agree.  The night followed with the noise of the youth gathered at the bar by the hotel building, who sang Ale, Ole all night long, as if they were already champions... An internal voice tells me that this will be so...It did happened in 1998. And this is only the first day of Euro 2016…There is still so much to come…

UCOM  is the main sponsor of the Armenian News-NEWS.am coverage of Euro 2016.

 

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