Will travel plans scupper Roy's Boys?
|BettingExpert/Betfair Euro 2012 blog correspondent entry profile|
|David Lyons is a multimedia journalism postgraduate and is also the co-editor of the website WeAreFreeAgents.|
|Twitter : @D_F_Lyons|
|Website : WeAreFreeAgents.wordpress.com|
This summer football fans will flock to Ukraine and Poland to support their teams at Euro 2012, not only looking for their team but also a bloody good summer holiday.
The eight venues around the two countries will be creaking under the strain of visiting fans from the 16 competing nations. Add to that the “unfavourable” reputation that English fans have abroad, and it is easy to see that if you’re heading out to Euro 2012 planning ahead will be vital to having as much fun as possible.
For instance, one potential blunder would be to book accommodation before you know exactly where you need to be for the games you want to attend. One group of travelling Englishmen booked a hotel in Krakow early, only to discover they’ll need to travel thousands of kilometres for their group games.
In fact, if they progress through the tournament, no matter if they finish first or second in their group, they can only play one game in Poland. The English football team’s travel plans could seriously jeopardise their chances in Euro 2012.
To help fans avoid making the same daft mistakes the England team I’ve spoken to my friend Yaroslav Skorov. Yarik, as he is affectionately known, was born in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, and lived there until he was 12 when he moved to Scotland. He still has family in Ukraine, and regularly visits. Mykolaiv is an industrial shipping industry and Yaroslav is keen to point out that despite the accusations it doesn’t all smell of garbage.
England’s first stop is Donetsk in the far east of Ukraine (1,500km from Krakow).The city is home to league champions Shakhtar who play at the ultra-modern Donbass Arena.
Yaroslav gives an image of Donetsk as a cross between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The city is awash with industrial wealth and not afraid to show it: “Donetsk is a bit stuck-up. There’s a lot of money there and a lot of rich people. It’s quite modern and westernised because of the money.”
But just because there’s money in Donetsk don’t think the local population won’t take the chance to make a bit more from unsuspecting football fans: “Be careful they don’t rip you off. I was driving through Donetsk with my friends and our car broke down. The guy told us it was a straight fee of 300 hryvnia (£50) to tow and fix the car. We paid, but the garage was just around the corner and they just had to press a button to get the car working.”
England will face France in the Donbass Arena, so expect two sets of proud fans defending their national teams’ dwindling reputations. England will be hoping there isn’t a repeat of injury time collapse from 2004, whilst France will just be hoping that their squad can get through a tournament without any revolutions.
A quick 700km jaunt north east is Kiev (860km from Krakow) and England’s next game against bogey team Sweden. The capital is used to roving bands of tourists, and will be fully prepared to offer everything expected from a major European city: “Kiev is a great night out. It’s like London and there’s always loads going on.”
But as with Donetsk Yaroslav recommends keeping your wits about you in Kiev: “Don’t annoy the locals. They’ll be friendly when they’ve got a drink in them, but don’t make them angry. “Everyone in Ukraine has served in the army, so they’re better at fighting than you. The girls in Kiev are amazing, but late at night if a girl comes up to you she’s probably for hire: run away.”
After the almost inevitable draw with the Swedes in Kiev, England go back to Donetsk to play Ukraine. Considering Ukraine play France in Donetsk on the same day England play Sweden in Kiev Hodgson’s team are clearly at a disadvantage anyway because they have 700km to travel vs. Ukraine’s 0km.
Add to that a potential trip back to base in Krakow and England could face a round trip of around 2,360km in four days, before playing the hosts in a possibly decisive game.
The more adventurous fan might want to visit one or both of the other Ukrainian host cities to watch some other teams, and get some relief from the trauma that is following England. Group B, featuring Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Portugal, promises world-class football and high drama and could provide the perfect break from the travails of Roy’s Boys.
Lviv, 550km west of Kiev, will host Germany v Portugal (two days before England v France in Donetsk), Denmark v Portugal (two days after England v France and two days before England v Sweden in Kiev) and Denmark v Germany (two days after England v Sweden and two days before England v Ukraine in Donetsk).
Yaroslav says: “Lviv has bad roads, and is basic but more affordable. It’s an old town but because they’re trying to make it more accessible the changes are more noticeable and it’s becoming more westernised. If you order in McDonalds and say what you’d say over here they will understand you.”
Kharkiv, 300km north of Donetsk, will host Netherlands v Denmark (same day as Germany v Portugal), Netherlands v Germany (same day as Denmark v Portugal) and Portugal v Netherlands (same day as Denmark v Germany).
Yaroslav thinks Khariv will be the most relaxed of the four Ukranian cities: “It’s a very cultural, green city with a Russian feel. If you explore it’s up there with best towns in Europe. The stadium isn’t new but it got renovated for the tournament. I expect it will be quiet, and Kiev will be the party city.”
By basing England in Krakow the FA have put their team at a serious disadvantage in their group. Ukraine are staying in Kiev, Sweden are staying in Koncha-Zaspa (just outside Kiev) and France are staying in Donetsk. How much the extra travel effects England remains to be seen, but it could well be decisive in what is likely to be a tight group.
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