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Opinion: A tournament of contradictions

Never has a football event taken place in such an atmosphere of fear as the Euro 2016. But DW Sports' Joscha Weber thinks the tournament can have a happy ending despite the threat of terrorism.

With its 8,600 inhabitants, 102 annual newborn babies, four schools, three pensioners' homes and one cable-car line, Évian-les-Bains has a small-town feel. The scenery on the southern bank of Lake Geneva is lovely: turquoise water, green all around, venerable spa hotels and the mighty Alps in the background. It's idyllic.

And provincial. The omnipresent anxiety about terrorism in the French capital seems far more distant than the 600 kilometers separating Évian from Paris. On the periphery of France, life is still as it should be.

Weber Joscha Kommentarbild App

DW Sports' Joscha Weber

And that's why the German national team has set up its headquarters here. Team manager Oliver Bierhoff wanted to have the squad stay in cosmopolitan Paris, as befits a world champion, but coach Joachim Löw opted for the peace and quiet of the provinces.

After all, the team made its headquarters in the town of Santo André when it won the World Cup two years ago. Perhaps that was Löw's reasoning. But perhaps he also wanted to avoid for as long as possible the specter of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. The German national team was playing a friendly that evening when the attacks were launched. One of the targets was the Stade de France, where the team was confined for much of the night for security reasons.

There's a shadow upon the 2016 European Championship, and things will have to change if the tournament is to shine.

This is no ordinary Euro. Never has a mass sporting event been so affected by fear of terrorism. Intelligence services have issued warnings, police and security guards are everywhere, and the teams are being kept under close observation. Fans, agents and players are talking about safety in addition to strategy.

Will the Euro 2016 come off without violence? France is doing its best to ensure that there are no terrorist incidents, but no one can guarantee anything.

The threat is diffuse and hard to identify - that's what makes terrorism so perfidious. It gets into people's heads, affecting their thoughts and emotions. And the Euro 2016 needs emotions if it's to become a magical sporting event. Football is nothing without suspense, hope, celebration, frustration, tears and triumph.

Many supporters are rooting for their teams just as they did at previous tournaments. Others are more muted and avoid large crowds. In France euphoria is going head to head with fear. It's a tournament of contradictions.

And lest we forget the sporting side of things: never before have so many small football nations (Albania, Northern Ireland) faced so many big ones (Germany, France, Spain). Never before will so many unknowns test their mettle against the sport's biggest stars.

This is a chance to tell a story that's not about terrorism. A story about sporting opposites. A story with a happy ending. Sport has been called the "most beautiful distraction in the world." Let's hope that in France, the football will distract people from their fears.

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