England told: it is crackers for you to stay in Krakow
There is anger in Ukraine that Rooney and Co will undertake 2,000-mile round trips to play group games...and will use a Fourth Division Polish team's facilities instead
As England struggle to get preparations for Euro 2012 back on course after the departure of Fabio Capello, further concerns have been raised about the Italian's insistence that the England training base would remain in Krakow, Poland.
England will play all three of their group games in Ukraine; one in Kiev and two in the eastern city of Donetsk. In interviews late last week, local officials in Donetsk expressed amazement at what they called a "mistaken" decision that will involve England travelling thousands of miles to matches.
England could progress all the way to the final and win the tournament without ever having to play a game in Poland, but have still chosen to take the mediocre training facilities of a fourth division Polish team, while overlooking one of the best training camps in Eastern Europe in Donetsk, which France will use.
"We understand that there are some issues here with transport, and hotels and so on, but training facilities are the one area where Donetsk is genuinely up there with the best in Europe," said Alexander Atamanenko, CEO of the Donbass Arena, home of Shakhtar Donetsk, the 2009 Uefa Cup winners, and the stadium where the Euro 2012 matches will be held. "When I saw the photographs of their training camp in Poland, I have to say I was surprised."
England will face round-trips of nearly 2000 miles for each of their games in Donetsk, as the city is about the same distance from Krakow as London is. They will also have another 900-mile round trip for the match they play against Sweden in Kiev. If they win their group, they will play their quarter final in Kiev, while if they finish as runners-up, the quarter-final will be in Donetsk. While other nations waited to see where their games would be played before making a final decision on a base, the FA selected the Krakow facility before the draw was made. Capello was determined to remain in Poland, saying immediately after the draw that he would "absolutely not" consider moving the team's base to Ukraine. A team from the FA visited Donetsk the very next day after the draw was made, but did not even look at available training facilities.
Reporters who have visited the England base in Poland say the medical facilities are non-existent and the pitches in need of repair. The FA have insisted that the base will be fully renovated before England arrive, but it does beg the question of why they did not opt for one of the bases in Ukraine that are already up to the required standard, and have the advantage of actually being in the country in which England will play.
The French snapped up the training ground of Shakhtar Donetsk in the days after the draw. Shakhtar's base is an impressive facility just 20 minutes' drive outside Donetsk, with accommodation on site, a restaurant, full medical facilities and nine practice pitches. Former Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva, who now plays for Shakhtar, said the facilities were "at least as good as those at Arsenal".
The Ukraine squad will naturally be based in their home country, while Sweden, the other team in England's group, will use the facilities of Dinamo Kiev. Only England will face long flights and nights in temporary accommodation before each game.
Sources in Donetsk told The Independent on Sunday about the England team's plans for Donetsk. They claim that the squad will fly in a day before the games with Ukraine and France in the city, and stay at the Ramada, a Soviet-era hotel that has been renovated with Western-style three- and four-star fittings. Some reviews on the website Tripadvisor.com in recent months have been less than glowing. One recent guest complained that "smoking is rampant everywhere", while another noted that the tap in the bathroom had to be run for two or three minutes before hot water came out.
When The Independent on Sunday was shown around the hotel's standard rooms last week they appeared pleasant enough but very small, with not much space beyond that taken up by a small double bed. The hotel only has eight "semi-luxury" and three "luxury" rooms, so most of the England squad will presumably be put up in the small standard rooms. The only truly five-star hotel in the city, the Donbass Palace, is out of bounds to teams, as all the rooms have been set aside for the "Uefa family".
Even if the next England manager decides that Capello's decision to insist on the facilities of a fourth division Polish side rather than a Ukrainian Premier League team's base was mistaken, it will be too late to move the squad to a base in Ukraine. Uefa required teams to submit their final choice of venue by 31 January.
Officials are disappointed about the uptake from England fans, saying that Uefa has informed them that of 30,000 tickets available over the three group matches through the FA, only 6,000 have been bought. A lack of information about accommodation and transport options has deterred many fans from buying.
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