France 2016: the most armored European cup in the history of football. The numbers speak for themselves: 77 agents mobilized to guarantee the security of players and supporters. France, hit by two terrorist attacks, in January and November, reacts to terror. Life goes on without lowering the guard. 24 football teams will take the field divided into six rounds. France-Romania is the first game. The match is scheduled at the Stade de France, one of the sites hit by terror attacks past November 13. Monsignor Dominique Lebrun is the bishop of Rouen. He worked as official referee of football matches for 12 years, from 1985 to 1998. He is a great football enthusiast. He will follow the match of “his” national football team with youths from the parish of Saint-Joseph di Malaunay-Le Houlme.
France has a head start. What do you think about it?
(he laughs) A head start? I doubt it’s the right word. When the team plays on home ground there obviously is a greater thrust. But I don’t think our team will be able to win the European cup. Although fortunately in sport there are always surprises, unpredictable human factors.
Are you planning to go to the stadium for some of the matches?
I booked the tickets for Portugal-Iceland in Saint-Etienne. I chose this match for the mere reason that when I booked the tickets I still was the bishop of Saint-Etienne, but then the Pope chose me to move to Rouen without asking me whether I had purchased the tickets.
What is your wish on the eve of the European cup 2016?
These sport events, although at high level, are always occasions for encounter in cities between delegations of different teams and supporters of various European nations.
They are always occasions for celebration and joy, although it’s a difficult moment also in France owing to the two attacks and the security question. It’s a climate we cannot afford to ignore.
How are people reacting to the huge deployment of police offers and the terror attack alert?
It can be distinctly felt that people won’t give up. People will go to the stadium. They are also willing to gather in the areas where giant screens will be set up. Thus, people intend to participate. You want to know why? I don’t have the answer.
Maybe it’s because their passion for football is stronger than fear. However, I also believe they want to show that these horrors won’t stop us.”
What is your message to the football players?
It would be best if the players experienced the competition on the field with a peaceful attitude. Our wish is to see a lower number of red and yellow cards. It would represent the most pleasant memory of the games. People nurture a certain form of aversion for this world, perceived as filled with heaps of money. Indeed, it’s a realm that should be reframed. Some clubs, such as the Saint Etienne, have decided not to exceed a certain amount of payment to the players, although they realize that by doing so they cannot compete with the big clubs. But it’s not enough. The way of conceiving the match should be reconsidered.
Why? What do people expect from football?
Its message is inscribed in the game itself. Football is a team game, each player needs the other; the referee is respected, and in turn he is tasked with ensuring the respect of the rules.
This is life in Europe: nobody can play alone.
Football is a universal game, open to everyone. It’s enough to have a ball and meet in a square on the streets to play and do beautiful things, even creative ones. I’m always surprised to see what football players are capable of. We must seek the unity of all, leaving nobody out.
Do you feel like attempting a prediction? Who will win the 2016 European Cup?
No, I really, can’t. But I hope the winner will be someone you do not expect.