Ukraine May Host Euro Cup!
Ukraine's top soccer official on Tuesday expressed delight that a joint bid by his ex-Soviet state and Poland made the short list to stage the 2012 European championship and vowed to press ahead to win the tournament.
Hryhory Surkis, speaking immediately after returning from the UEFA meeting in Malta, said the bid made it into the top three despite major shortcomings he vowed to put right in time.
"We knew when we entered the competition that our infrastructure was lacking. There are lots of things we just don't have -- roads, hotels, airports," Surkis, President of the Ukrainian Soccer Federation, told a news conference.
"But we were different from the others in that we had a good programme, a very strong proposal."
Surkis said he "nearly fell of his chair" when the top two leaders were announced, Italy and a joint Hungary/Croatia bid.
"When I then heard that Ukraine was third, this was the happiest moment of my life," he said.
"We have been living in a fairytale for a year. Give us the chance to turn the fairytale into a reality. We can do this."
Offering the championship to Ukraine and Poland -- both ex-communist states -- would have a "multiplier effect" in stimulating the development of both countries' economies.
"I do not believe that we were merely fighting for the sports honour of Poland and Ukraine. We were fighting for the authority and prestige of our two countries," Surkis said.
"I am convinced that if both countries and their leaders work together consistently we can be healthy and happy not only this year but in years to come by staging the final in 2012."
Surkis said the bid stood a chance of beating Italy in the final vote in December 2006 in the same way that relatively poor Portugal had won the right to stage the 2004 tournament.
It offered, he said, unprecedented prospects for eastern Europe's huge markets, and the bid was helped by the election victory in Ukraine of liberals committed to European integration after last year's "Orange Revolution" protests.
"We essentially represent a bridge between western and eastern Europe," he said.
"Poland is already a member of the European Union and Ukraine consistently says it wants to integrate with the EU. Sport and soccer can serve as a new a means to develop economic, social and legislative change."
Surkis said, however, that the liberal administration of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, its authority badly dented by the dismissal in September of a popular prime minister, had to restore the trust of Western politicians and investors.
"The government must offer stability and show investors that Ukraine is attractive, stable and reliable," he said.