By Anthony Dylan

For the past few months, the major sporting events which were supposed to be held in 2020 were eventually held this year. The events like the European Football championship (EURO 2020), the South American Football championship (COPA AMERICA 2020), the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 have all been postponed to this year.

It was an interesting phenomenon as all the branding remained as a “2020” edition. The much awaited Euro 2020 finally kicked off in Rome on 11th June 2021 at the Stadio Olimpico. This tournament was played in 11 countries. Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Spain played city hosts. Stadiums were filled based on the required health protocol and had crowds from 25% stadium capacity upwards.

The Euro 2020 was one of the best Euro championships in the history of the football edition as it had as many fairytales and the sense of unity as one could ever dream of. No one could forget how the Danish team surrounded and quickly aided Christian Eriksen as he suffered and survived a cardiac arrest at a game. The rest of the football fraternity all stood in support for him at nearly all the matches. Denmark too, at the brink of elimination after losing two of their three group matches went all the way to the semifinals. There, they lost to England but got a standing ovation for giving people hope and the spirit of togetherness.

Italy, a nation of least favourite to win played with the experience of the elders and the free spirit of the young managed to make their way to the final. Their new coach gave them self-belief to have fun while playing and to celebrate every game. At the end of the day, Italy played with passion and beauty which gave them their Euro Championship since 1968 over England. Yes, the cup was not “Going Home” but “Going to Rome” on 11th July 2021.

Over in South America, another football tournament began in Brazil at the same time. The Copa America 2020 was supposed to be held in Argentina and Colombia. However, due to the increasing Covid-19 cases, the tournament was played in Brazil from 13th June till 10th July 2021. The highlight was the intriguing melancholic light display tribute for Diego Maradona who passed on at the age of 60 before the Argentina vs Chile opening match. Unlike the Euro 2020, this tournament was played in near empty stadiums. In the end, after many heart stopping penalty shootouts from the knockout phases, another legend finally landed his prize. The world’s best footballer, Lionel Messi finally won a major international tournament as Argentina beat Brazil in the final which also featured the legendary Neymar.

The Tokyo Olympics 2020 finally got underway on 23rd July until 8th August 2021. It was a sign of triumph for many as it showed sports would overcome adversity. It is also known officially as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. The logo depicted a ring of geometric shapes under the motto “United by Emotion”. “Citius, Altius, Fortius (Swifter, Higher, Stronger) – Together. The Olympics would always be remembered by the following statement made by Pierre de Coubertin in 1921 when he borrowed a Latin phrase from his friend, Father Henri Didon:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Italy continued with this year’s sporting miracles when Jacobs Lamont Marcell won the headlining 100m Men’s and he also helped Italy win the 4 X 100m relay. Our Malaysian team won one silver in Cycling and one Bronze in Badminton.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games began on 24th August 2021 and would end on the 5th September 2021. As of the time of writing, Malaysia won Gold from power lifting. In the last Paralympics in Rio 2016, Malaysia won a Gold each in the shot put, 100m and Long Jump.

The English Premier League has just begun and already we see on television how the crowds were allowed back into the stadiums. There has already been talk of an exciting year for football in England as Cristiano Ronaldo would be donning the Manchester United jersey again. At this time of writing, this is still being confirmed.

The 31st Thomas Cup and 28th Uber Cup Badminton Team Tournament would be the next anticipated event. Malaysia would be playing in both from 9th to 17th October 2021 in Denmark. This tournament was supposed to be held in 2020. Malaysia last won the Thomas Cup in 1992 whilst the best performance in the Uber Cup was in 2010 (Quarterfinals). We hope to see a sterling performance in both events.

The 31st Sea Games which was supposed to be held from 21st November till 2nd December 2021 in Hanoi, Vietnam would be postponed to a date to be determined in 2022.

The World Cup Qualifications would restart in a few weeks as the preparations for the World Cup gets into higher gear. This tournament would be held in December for the first time as the summer of the Middle East becomes a reason for the Qatar edition to be held from the 21st November till 18th December 2022. Next year would also be the year of the year of the 19th Asian Games 2022 in Hangzhou, China before the World Cup.

It has been a remarkable sporting year this year in the face of the pandemic. It just shows how much sports had been able to give in lifting everyone’s spirits. Let us celebrate sports in our lives. Even the neighbours are playing more badminton with their kids.

Here is wishing everyone, “Selamat Hari Merdeka ke 64 (sejak 31 Ogos 1957) and to all Malaysians, ‘Selamat Hari Malaysia ke 58 (sejak 16 September 1963).