Ukraine grounds fit for purpose – unlike England's logistical efforts
Venues in Donetsk and Kiev pass muster – even if they are hundreds of miles from team hotel
Thursday 07 June 2012
At night the Donbass Arena is lit up, its outside casting a blue glow across the parkland that surrounds it. Despite controversy over racism, pricing, inadequate infrastructure and a lack of accommodation, there is one area where it is possible to cast Euro 2012 in a positive light; its stadiums, particularly the two where England play, are happily fit for purpose.
England kick off their tournament on Monday in the Donbass Arena, home of Shakhtar Donetsk, the champions of Ukraine and the country's richest club. Designed by the architects behind the Allianz Arena in Munich, the Donbass was the only one of the four Ukrainian stadiums that did not require upgrading or rebuilding for Euro 2012. It was completed three years ago at a cost of £225m – money provided by Rinat Akhmetov, the industrial billionaire who bankrolls the club – and it will have a capacity of 50,000 for the Euros. From the pitch there is an intimate feel to the ground and when full, which it may not be for England's games, it is a noisy, atmospheric arena.
The dressing rooms, painted in the club's distinctive black and orange colours, are spacious. Comfortable leather-bound chairs, one in front of each locker, are arranged in a semi-circle facing a wall, on which a large whiteboard is pinned. Off the main changing area are roomy medical areas.
The stadium sits in the middle of Donetsk – a city founded in the 19th Century by a Welshman, John Hughes. It is a starkly industrial city, and England's players will be able to pick out a slagheap and pit head from the nearest coalmine as they make their way to the Arena. But the footballing facilities are as good as any in the Premier League.
England will make the 930-mile journey from Krakow on Sunday – teams have to be in the host city the night before a game. France, their opponents, will have a 30-minute coach ride from their base, Shakhtar's training ground. Like the stadium, it is as good as any in England but it is also bigger and includes accommodation.
Fabio Capello was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and isolate the squad – it was he who insisted on Krakow – but the Shakhtar training facility, while close enough to the city for the players to venture out, is also secluded from fans and media. The German football association reserved it ahead of the draw. The Dutch FA was also interested. The French moved to snap it up after the draw and Laurent Blanc has made a couple of trips with his back-room team to ensure its set-up is to their liking; the FA did not even send a representative to tour the facility.
The 60,000-seater Olympic stadium in Kiev, where England meet Sweden, was rebuilt for the tournament. Although smaller, it resembles its counterpart in London with a running track around the pitch; inside, however, it feels more like a football ground. The dressing rooms are large, if not as plush as the ones in Donetsk.
It will be a 540-mile journey for Roy Hodgson's squad – again their opponents will have a trip measured in minutes. Sweden will train at Dynamo's centre on the outskirts of Kiev (where Ukraine are also based) and stay at a hotel in the city.
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