Media hope and fears for Euro 2016

L'Equipe Front Page Image copyright L'Equipe
Image caption "Rewriting History" says football daily L'Equipe.

The press in France expresses hopes that the national team can unite a country divided by weeks of strikes, along with fears that transport chaos and the ever-present terrorist threat will mar any festive atmosphere.

The media elsewhere see Euro 2016 as a test of the ability of France, and more broadly of Europe, to cope with the multiple challenges of security and social cohesion.

'Rewrite history'

Top-selling Ouest France tries to strike an upbeat note on its front page, saying "let the tournament begin, despite everything!"

Image copyright ouest france
Image caption "Let the tournament begin, despite everything!" says Ouest France, the top selling paper in France.

It sees Euro 2016 as a "golden opportunity to burnish the image" of a calamitous France "mired in the mess of the endless Labour Law row... and with a still-high terrorist alert", but casts doubt on whether the tournament will "renew the team spirit" of the country.

Centre-left Le Monde's headline is "Euro 2016 begins in France against a background of social protest", with "trains, planes, refineries and rubbish collectors all on strike".

It also highlights the hopes of French team member Paul Pogba that the tournament can "put a smile back on the face of the country" after months of misery over strikes and last year's terror attacks.

Conservative Le Figaro accuses unions of "outbidding each other" in strike action and thereby "tarnishing the start of the tournament".

Its editorial says it is "heartbreaking to see France present such a disastrous image of itself... as a country turned upside-down, held hostage by a handful of trade unionists and violent protesters... all against a background of the terrorist threat, this can only scare fans, tourists and investors". It calls on the "panicking" Socialist government to "reclaim the left and break the power of the unions" by going through with its controversial labour reforms.

Left-wing Liberation focuses on the football, devoting its front page to praising a French team "forged in pain.... and renewed" by manager Didier Deschamps, on which great expectations ride.

Image copyright Liberation
Image caption "Forged in pain.... and renewed" says Liberation.

The football daily L'Equipe agrees, calling on the team to "rewrite history" and win.

Les Echos financial daily bemoans a Euro 2016 "spoiled by social blackmail" and agrees with La Tribune that security is the main challenge for the authorities. "Normally football is a festival, but after the tragic year 2015, which was marked by two series of attacks on French soil, the situation has changed," La Tribune concludes.

'Neck and neck'

The story gets front page treatment throughout Europe, and not least in Romania, whose team faces France first. Commentators do not fancy their chances, with ProSport lamenting that "History is not on our side!" given Romania's "awful" record of never having defeated France before.

In Germany, conservative Die Welt says the terrorist threat has "tarnished the mood of anticipation" in France, and the centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung sees a country suspended between "expectation and caution".

The papers also devote comment to Germany's chances of winning Euro 2016, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung seeing France and Germany as "neck and neck".

The Russian media cover the story prominently, highlighting security concerns, France's domestic situation and the wider implications for Europe. The popular Moskovsky Komsomolets daily is typical in seeing the tournament as a "shop window on the Old World", reflecting what it calls the "migration, cultural, and... civilisational process" reshaping the continent.

Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport is more hopeful that the tournament will "unite the Europe of walls", and calls on the poorly-rated Italian national team to "astound us!"

'Unite with France'

The tournament also attracts interest beyond Europe.

Newspapers throughout Africa highlight it on their sports pages. Senegal's Walfadjri is particularly interested in the footballers of Senegalese origin playing in Euro 2016, and recalls the major contribution African players have made to European football.

Image copyright Al-Akhbar
Image caption A glimmer of light in the darkness of France, says Egypt's Al-Akhbar.

Several Arabic dailies put the story on their front page, and some publish special supplements. The terrorism threat is uppermost in their minds.

The Egyptian paper Al-Shorouk sees Euro 2016 as a "challenge to terrorism" , and its compatriot Al-Watan says the world "is uniting with France against terrorism".

Similarly, Essa al-Jokm in the Saudi paper Al-Yaum calls on the world to "support France in overcoming threats".

Lebanon's Al-Safir spells out the threat from the so-called Islamic State group, which it dubs the "25th team in the competition".

"It has already stolen the spotlight from other teams... this invisible team that makes its presence felt despite the 100,000 soldiers and security guards deployed on the streets to protect the French from its bloody blows".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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