The Times reports that the EU is going to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome by staging a football match on 13 March: the Europe XI led by David Beckham is going to take on Manchester United, who are currently sitting at the top of the English Premiership table. The match is to be played at the famous Reds' stadium, the Old Trafford. Marcello Lippi, the coach of the last year's Italian World Cup winners, has been entrusted with managing the Europe team by Michel Platini, the French football legend and the newly elected president of the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). In my opinion, an ad-hoc Europe team is a very good way of cementing European identity, especially in Britain.
The article also states that "Mr Lippi and Mr Roxburgh [assistant coach] have been given permission by UEFA to approach players from the 52 nations affiliated to the organisation." The problem is that out of those 52 national football associations, some are not in Europe - Israel, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey. Yet they are still affiliated to the Union of European Football Associations. That allows their clubs to compete in the European cups, and their national teams to play against more attractive opponents. The UEFA is happy to maintain this state of affairs, because the more national associations it has under its wings, the bigger its clout inside the FIFA, the global body governing football. However, there are serious implications of the UEFA's opportunistic policy: it gives an argument to those who would like the EU to enlarge forever, beyond Europe: "they play football with us, they are in the same cultural sphere." (For an explanation of the concept of the European Public Sphere, read an excellent article by Matteo Garavoglia on Le Taurillon.)
Let us hope that Lippi will only choose players from the current EU states, and other European nations. Indeed, should he include non-EU European players in his squad, it would boost the idea of European unification, which I described in this article for Le Taurillon.
No doubt that Chelsea's Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine and Arsenal's Alexander Hleb of Belarus will get the nomination. Shevchenko's inclusion in the EU team would confirm the new pro-EU course of the Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukhovich. Yanukhovich was famously ousted by the "Orange Revolution" in 2004. Shevchenko stood up for him in the media, while Yanukhovich's archrival Yuschenko was supported by Ruslana, the winner of the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest. Hleb's inclusion would give a signal to the people of Belarus that there is a European future for them, shall the Lukashenka's regime crumble.