Poland and Ukraine to co-host Euro 2012

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The Independent Online

Poland and Ukraine will co-host the 2012 European Championship.

UEFA yesterday overlooked the favorite Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary to award the continental championships to the former eastern bloc for the first time since Yugoslavia in 1976.

"It will be a milestone in the common history of two Slavic nations," Poland soccer federation president Michal Listkiewicz said.

UEFA president Michel Platini announced the winner at Cardiff City Hall after a private meeting of 12 members of the executive committee.

"Eastern Europe has a great history in sport and in football and they still have great players, but what they have been missing has been good infrastructure, stadiums and training facilities," Poland national team coach Leo Beenhakker said.

"Now the governments and the football federations are obliged to realize all their promises within the next five years and make these improvements. This is fundamental for football in Poland and Ukraine."

Poland and Ukraine won the right to host the tournament in the first round of balloting, collecting eight votes to Italy's four. The Croatia-Hungary bid failed to win a single vote.

"Within five years we will build a new country and we won't have a better opportunity to do so," Ukraine soccer federation president Hrihoriy Surkis said.

Chelsea's Ukrainian striker, Andriy Shevchenko, and Liverpool's Polish goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, supported the bid at a presentation from the two former Communist countries.

Ukraine's ex-world heavyweight boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko, and former Olympic pole vault champion, Sergei Bubka, were in Cardiff for the vote, along with Ukraine President Victor Yushchenko.

"I'm happy they trusted us," Bubka said. "I don't see any problems, everything will be done in time. We need this and this decision will accelerate the development of infrastructure in our countries."

Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk and Lviv in Ukraine and Gdansk, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw and Chorzow in Poland have also been lined up as host cities for Euro 2012.

The opening match is scheduled to be staged at the new 70,000-capacity National Stadium in Warsaw when construction work is completed in 2009 at a cost of ¤400 million.

The final will be held at Kiev's redeveloped Olympic Stadium, but all 12 proposed venues need work.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for Ukrainians and Poles to give soccer fans from around the world an extraordinary sporting event," said Yushchenko, who assisted with the final presentation Tuesday.

The bid by Poland and Ukraine had to overcome some problems.

Poland's national team just avoided suspension after FIFA said the federation had done little to stop corruption, and a match-fixing scandal in the domestic leagues that led to about 70 people being arrested.

Yushchenko swept to power in a 2005 revolution that was also considered a possible negative factor.

Neither country has hosted a major sporting event and concerns still remain about the shortage of high-quality hotels and poor transport infrastructure in both Poland and Ukraine.

The proposed semifinal venues are in Donetsk, Kiev and Warsaw, and fans may have to travel 30 hours by train to attend both games, although there are plans to expand the highway linking the nations.

Italy, which has hosted two European Championships and two World Cups, also had its campaign tainted by a series of off-field problems.

A widescale match-fixing scandal in Serie A last year was followed by the death of policeman when soccer fans rioted in Catania.

Earlier this month, accusations of brutality were leveled at Rome police after clashes with Manchester United fans at a Champions League match against AS Roma.

"We go to stadiums with helmets on and the scandal was an embarrassment for world soccer," Italian delegation member Luigi Riva said.

But Italy sports minister Giovanna Melandri insisted these problems didn't cost her country the vote. "It's a decision to enlarge the European football family," Melandri said.

The European Championship was jointly hosted for the first time in 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands. Switzerland and Austria are co-hosting the 2008 edition of the quadrennial event.

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