Ljubljana – The Slovenian Football Association (NZS) and four Slovenian cities that will co-host the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship with Hungary are finishing their preparations for what will be largest football event in Slovenia so far, heard an online debate on Thursday. It is not clear yet whether in-person audience will be allowed during matches.
Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje and Koper will co-host the UEFA Under-21 Euro 2021 matches.
The group stage will take place between 24 and 31 March, whereas the knockout stage will be held between 31 May and 6 June. The final will be played in Ljubljana.
Events and activities in the run-up to the tournament have been mostly moved to the virtual realm, the host cities told the debate, which was held by the STA and NZS.
Two scenarios have been drawn up with the first preparing for UEFA Under-21 Euro 2021 in Covid format without spectators and the second allowing for 30% occupancy of stadiums, said Ljubljana Deputy Mayor Dejan Crnek.
Preparations are similar in other host cities in Slovenia with each coming up with signature features to promote the event. In Ljubljana, for example, old footballs will be collected and displayed across the city as installations to be later recycled.
Maribor, meanwhile, hopes that its Ljudski Vrt stadium, which is undergoing renovation, will be ready for the tournament. Slovenia’s second largest city plans to hold a number of accompanying festivals, such as graffiti or food festivals, said Nataša Ritonija, who is in charge of the city’s international cooperation department.
The coastal town of Koper intends to create a clay football on which all the participating footballers are to sign their name, Patrik Peroša, the head of the Koper UEFA Under-21 Euro 2021 coordination task force said.
Planting trees typical of countries that are to face off in Celje will be another special feature, said Katarina Karlovšek, who is in charge of organising related activities in Celje.
The NZS meanwhile noted that the tournament played an important role in promoting host countries. Two years ago, the broadcast of UEFA Under-21 Euro in Italy was watched by 150 million viewers and Slovenia expects the figure to be even higher due to a greater number of participating teams, said Lea Soklič, the head of the UEFA Under-21 Euro 2021 project with the NZS.
The organisation and host cities have been cooperating with the Tourism Board and local tourism providers to step up promotional efforts.