PARIS (AP) — Britain’s momentous decision to leave the European Union was the talk of soccer’s European Championship on Friday.
Wales coach Chris Coleman spoke of the virtues of free movement of workers in Europe, while England striker Harry Kane conceded to having little interest in the referendum that changed his country’s political destiny. Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill rued his failure to cast a ballot.
Discussion wasn’t just isolated to the ranks of the British teams at the tournament in France.
Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini broke off from preparations for Monday’s game against Spain to provide a considered analysis of Brexit.
“The main concern should be about an eventual domino effect caused by this decision,” Chiellini said.
“This vote is the symbol of a general discussion that you can feel in Italy and all across Europe, but I think that discontent shouldn’t lead to a vote for disintegration.”
The results of the referendum on British’s future in the 28-country EU have already sent shockwaves around global financial markets and triggered Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his intention to resign.
Historic events clearly that don’t seem to be resonating among the England squad.
“I don’t know enough about it to be concerned about it,” Kane said at England’s training camp near Paris. “And I don’t think the other players do as well.”
But players from continental teams were more willing to talk, expressing trepidation about the impact of Britain’s impeding EU departure.
“You always had such a feeling of unity (in Europe),” Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. “It’s a bit of a shame that Britain … doesn’t belong to it anymore.”
When it comes to European soccer, Britain has five separate teams: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the overseas territory of Gibraltar.
Only England, Northern Ireland and Wales qualified for Euro 2016 and all three are seeking to avoid their own exit from the tournament.
Just as Britain decided to split from Europe there will an influx of Britons to France on Saturday when Wales and Northern Ireland play at the Parc des Princes in Paris in a round of 16 match. Because of the fall in the pound in the referendum’s aftermath, it’s going to be more expensive.
“We’re certainly trying to remain here as long as we can,” Wales captain Ashley Williams quipped, referencing the name of the failed campaign to stay in the EU.
His coach, Coleman, spoke glowingly about how working in second-tier European clubs — Real Sociedad in Spain and Larissa in Greece — allowed him to reboot his managerial career after being sacked by then Premier League club Fulham in 2007 and Coventry in 2010.
“I wanted the work,” Coleman said. “I wanted the experience, I wanted to get better.”
The nature of Britain’s future relationship with the EU will take a while to emerge. It’s unclear whether Britons would be able to seek jobs so easily in Europe.
“Even before the result today it’s disappointing that more coaches from home don’t travel abroad,” Coleman said.
“What will happen in the future? I’m not sure. It will probably be more difficult I imagine.”
Neither Williams nor Coleman disclosed how — or if — they voted by post.
O’Neill, who has led Northern Ireland into its first major tournament since 1986, didn’t give himself the chance.
“I personally made an error because I didn’t give myself the opportunity to vote by postal vote,” he said. “So I am disappointed with that myself.”
The vote could affect soccer in Britain, with authorities already starting to assess if it will be harder for clubs to sign players from Europe.
“You don’t want to lose the best European players coming here,” English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said.
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