Poland and Ukraine – The battle between head and heart
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|Dan Matthews writes about football at his blog AGameOfInches.blogsport.co.uk|
|Twitter : @DannyM_93|
|Website : AGameOfInches.blogsport.co.uk|
With less than a month until the start of the Championships, the blue touch paper is well and truly lit for those in charge of Euro 2012. Hosting a major sporting event nowadays is not just about the football, it is a test of a country's economy, infrastructure and stadia, meaning the decision to let Poland and Ukraine host this summer's European Championships was always going to spark debate.
The impact is so far reaching in so many ways that this is as much a test of UEFA's decision-making process as it is about the two host nations' capacity to cope with such an event. Ever since the destination of Euro 2012 was made public, I have questioned the wisdom of UEFA's decision, citing a number of reasons why I didn't think Poland and Ukraine were suitable hosts, while also admiring the bravery of decisions like these and those of FIFA in their allocation of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
There are many reasons why countries such as Poland and Ukraine should never have been considered as a potential host of a tournament of such magnitude, but also many which suggest that this was a very courageous, but ultimately just decision by European football's governing body. As the title of this article suggests, this decision has divided opinion, my own included as to whether the sentiments of it being just or fair supersede any argument as to whether the decision it is a sensible one. Despite the tournament's opening drawing ever nearer, I am still undecided as to which argument has more validity.
Given this summer's hosts, alongside Russia and Qatar are in line to host their first major tournaments, the trend to bring football to new countries and new people seems to be gaining pace. Not only does this provide a new avenue for the much traveled fan to visit somewhere different, but (particularly in this case) could well be the perfect way to break the oligarchic nature of European football, centred around the powerhouses such as France, Germany Spain and of course England. This is UEFA's attempt to create footballing forces of the future and, by giving western European fans the chance to experience a new football culture in the east, Euro 2012 is for the hosts a “chance to forge closer ties with the west” and “improve it's international standing”, as the Daily Star recently suggested. This said, I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who disagreed with such rationale. If UEFA can do something to bring together a continent which faces division even today through a common love of football then their decision is commendable to say the least.
That is to say, their motives are commendable to say the least. Whether this humanitarian style sentiment is enough to justify some of the problems which hosting the tournament can bring is a much more subjective matter. Firstly, if someone said to me “Polish Football”, the first image which comes to mind is of rival fans of Wisla and Cracowia clashing violently before the Krakow derby, something I witnessed a couple of years ago on television. Now while I'm sure this is not evidence of an epidemic across Poland and Ukraine, the fact that it was occurring in the most high profiled derby in Poland suggests it is a problem. And a problem such as hooliganism, which certainly existed when UEFA made their decision, should not be taken lightly, however small. Indeed there have even been calls for a boycott of the tournament on humanitarian grounds, with Angela Merkel saying she will not attend the tournament unless the situation improves.
Furthermore, this tournament is expected to have cost Ukraine a crippling 14 billion Euros, only 2 billion less than London 2012. Therefore, as a result of the continuing economic and social problems existing in the host countries, was it truly responsible of UEFA to award them the honour of hosting this event? What sort of message does this send out to countries applying to host these tournaments with unsolved problems of their own?
This is not the first time this has happened however. The poignant image of the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg dwarfing a local township sparked controversy and asked a relevant question to our governing bodies: Should these countries be spending so much on this tournament when they have serious social issues which are really of higher importance? Given UEFA seemed to deem these sort of problems as subordinate to their desire to spread football elsewhere leads me to question the priorities of Michel Platini and co.
Despite the increasing number of problems which have arisen from hosting the tournament, Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych seems convinced that his country needs Euro 2012, stating that “We are going to be left with modern infrastructure . . . we are going to receive lots of guests and I hope that many of them will visit our country in the future.”. But unfortunately for the optimistic statesman, history doesn't appear to be on his side. South Africa and Greece have both been left with numerous stadia and facilities which have been left to rust, with the latter losing around 4 billion euros on the back of hosting the summer Olympics in 2004.
It is very easy to criticise UEFA for their choice. it would have been very tempting to take the easy option and award it to a more established footballing nation, somewhere where the job would already be half done, but I think they do deserve credit for the way they stuck to their principle of spreading the beautiful game to as many people as possible. Their decision was no doubt brave and just, but whether it was a sensible one for all concerned remains to be seen.
Want to travel to Poland to cover the upcoming European football championships? Find out more about the search for our Euro 2012 blog correspondent here.
You can follow BettingExpert on Twitter @BettingExpert
And don't forget to follow @BetfairSports for all the best and latest Euro 2012 betting offers and discussion.
You must be logged in to post a comment! Sign up + or log in in the top right corner.