Via Polonia!

by Michael Somerville

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Euro 2012 update

They were the words shouted out by Warsaw mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz as it was announced that Poland/ Ukraine would be hosting the European Championships in 2012. It marks a remarkable turnaround for the old soviet block of countries, having been under repressive communist rule from 1954 to 1989. In the 80’s and 90’s Poland and Ukraine were very much considered a “no-go” area, full of grime, bad transport, little job prospects and derision from it’s more wealthy European neighbours. Now, in the 21’st century, Poland has expanded and renewed, and not just it’s political system but it’s sporting infrastructure too.

The building of the 63,000 stadium in capital city Warsaw is underway, which will host the opening game, group matches and semi final, and the newly refurbished stadium in Posnan and Wroclav with capacities of 42,000. Not to be sniffed at.

Of course, the final of the European Championships will be held at the national stadium in Kiev which holds 77,000, home to team Dynamo Kiev which famously knocked out Arsenal of the Champions League a couple of years back. Both Ukraine and Poland have come a long way from the doom and gloom of the 80’s, Ukraine gave England a good game at Wembley on Wednesday and Poland are in a good position to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa despite losing to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park a few days ago. England fans sure know how that feels like.

The remarkable 10-0 drubbing of no hopers San Marino will go some way of allying the fears of non- qualification with Ebi Smolarek grabbing 4 goals. The striker/ winger is currently on loan at Bolton Wanderers so watch out for him in the coming weeks.

Of course, winning the right was never going to be easy for Ukraine/ Poland especially when coming up against the favourites Italy. But the recent troubles with football violence and bribery has tarnished the face of Italian football for many years to come, and it has to be said that the Stadio Olympico as a choice of a final could be a disaster with the menacing presence of the Roma Ultra’s in the area.

When the late, great Brian Clough called the Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski “a clown” when England were knocked out by Poland in 1973, I’m sure a few people agreed with him! Now, the country which seemed to lack a purpose for so many years is back and is ripping its muscles for one of the greatest sporting events and I’m sure it won’t get back to it’s old tricks again.

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