First Euros temporarily bring divided Georgia together

June 21, TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia’s first international tournament provides a welcome diversion from harsh internal politics, despite the team’s defeat to neighboring Turkey in their opening match for Euro 2024.
In Tbilisi, the capital, Georgians were excitedly anticipating watching Saturday’s second game against the Czech Republic. “The mood is sky-high,” said supporter Giorgi Gogishvili, 53. “The whole city, the whole Georgian nation, are proud of the lads.”

The world’s 74th-ranked side played a thrilling opening match at the tournament in Germany, narrowly missing an equalizer against Turkey in additional time before giving up a goal in the last seconds to lose 3-1.
But that energetic display maintained the positive energy after Georgia’s March qualification, when they defeated Greece on penalties to advance to their first-ever major international tournament, had aroused celebration across the 3.7 million-person country.

Tbilisi’s streets were deserted for the Turkey match as supporters flocked to the main stadium, where the game was broadcast on four big screens, or to pubs.
When social tensions are high, even by the lengthy, brutal norms of Georgian politics, the Euros provide many of their countrymen with a little respite and a moment of national unanimity.

POLITICS OF FOOTBALL ECLIPSES

A regulation on “foreign agents” that went into effect earlier this month has drawn criticism for being overly strict and having Russian influences.

Since Georgia gained its independence from Moscow in 1991, it has provoked some of the biggest rallies there, to which the security services have violently put an end.
To the dismay of government officials who claim it is vital to preserve sovereignty and thwart what they perceive to be a Western conspiracy to force Tbilisi into conflict with Russia, a number of players on the national team have criticized the law.
But political fervor wanes while Georgia’s athletes are playing.

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