PHOTO: KARSTEN WINEGEART/UNSPLASH

The start of the European Football Championship has come just in time for the reopening of outdoor and indoor dining –– bringing a much needed boost to some within the hospitality industry. 

Now, with games in full swing, Calgarians from all different backgrounds are gathering once again to cheer on their team from thousands of miles away.

The Euro cup was scheduled to begin in June 2020 but, due to COVID-19, was pushed back a year. 

Stephen Mcdowall, operations manager for all four of Calgary’s Best Pubs establishments — Dixon’s Public House, The Kilkenny Irish Pub, Limericks Traditional Public House and The Joyce on 4th Irish Pub — says after the fluctuating restrictions on bars and restaurants the Euro cup has brought a breath of fresh air. 

“I think COVID is obviously coming to an end and I think it’s the way that people are finding to get back to normal. I think this helps them get back to that,” says Mcdowall.

With the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, Daniel Tarko, a Euro cup fan, says the sporting event has reminded people to just look forward and keep moving.

“The last year has been like a blur. It just shows that this is temporary and life is just going to keep moving on,” says Tarko.

Both Mcdowall and Harry Dimitriatis, a co-owner of Jamesons on 17th, says the sporting event has aided by not only drawing in people, but also at times they usually wouldn’t be busy.

With games kicking off at three set times each day, 7 a.m., 10 a.m., and 1 p.m., some pubs and restaurants have been granted a special liquor license to open early for fans to enjoy a pint with breakfast as they watch the games. 

“Obviously you can’t be in the arena or the stadium, so hopefully the next best thing is a bar really making an event out of it, making it exciting for people,” says Dimitriatis.

Though there are no Canadians nor a Canadian team playing in the cup, it still remains important to many.

Mcdowall says those who come into his pubs to watch games are expats or those who have an ancestry which ties them to the team they are cheering for. 

Tarko is one of those fans. Half Polish, he enjoyed watching his team make it to the semi-finals in the last tournament and is hopeful this year they can go farther. He says with such diversity in Canada it is important to support people’s backgrounds and differences, and the Euro cup does that by bringing people together. 

As the most viewed sport around the world, Dimitriatis says both soccer in general, and the Euro cup specifically, can be very patriotic.  

“Canada is a melting pot society. I mean we have all different ethnicities here,” says Dimitriatis. “I would say the big thing with events like the Euro, it’s national pride.”

Certain games do draw bigger crowds, but Mcdowall says that doesn’t matter as much as the atmosphere in the pubs.

“When we’re full or even 10, 12 tables, when a goal is scored, the room erupts, or when a penalty is missed, the room erupts,” he says.

With the cup only happening once every four years, Tarko says though it can be tense — especially when his team is playing — it is overall entertaining to watch. 

The Euro cup group stage ended yesterday, leaving 16 of the 24 nations moving on to the knockout rounds of the tournament.