Quite apart from the usual chit chat about which players will make which squad, several themes are emerging in the Western media about Poland-Ukraine 2012.
The trials and tribulations of any England football team ahead of any international tournament are no less intense than for Poland-Ukraine 2012. Their choice of a base in Krakow continues to arouse curiosity and criticism in equal measure, as does their decision to train at a third-rate club ground in Nowa Huta, which is rapidly being renovated with EUFA money. The Daily Mirror investigated, and spoke to “a man in charge of building” works there who allegedly declared: “It is a work in progress. You might think things look bad, but this is the way of building, here”. Encouraging, then. Perhaps that’s why, as the Mirror also reports, England has not sold its quota of Euro tickets, and England’s opener against France is one of only a handful of games not to have sold out. That and maybe the fact England has only just appointed a coach, six weeks before the championships commence.
At least England rules the roost off the pitch; I’m talking WAGs (the Wives And GirlfriendS). The Daily Star’s headline is: “Cracking Krakow all set to welcome Coleen Rooney and Co for Euro 2012.” “England’s WAGs will be the real stars of Euro 2012,” it begins confidently, before going on to describe Krakow as a “notorious party town, popular for Brit stag dos,” where alcohol is cheap and strip joints abound. In other titillating developments, Poland’s football anthem for Euro 2012, a catchy tune sung by stolid Polish countrywomen entitled ‘Koko Euro Spoko‘ – something like ‘Clucking Cool Euro” – has received press reviews of the ‘so bad it’s good‘ variety, while more seriously – I think – The Sun reports that Pamela Anderson wants Ukrainian authorities to stop killing stray dogs in an effort to smarten up the country’s streets.
Another theme is the long shadow still cast by World War II. A debate rages in the media as to whether or not the German team should visit Auschwitz. The Independent reports the Ukrainian authorities have blocked the release of a film about a Kiev football side that took on and beat a Nazi side during the War. The ‘Death Match’ in Kiev allegedly lead to the murder of the Ukrainian players. That aspect of the story is thought to be apocryphal, but it was feared releasing the movie now could offend Kiev residents (portrayed as collaborators) as well as encourage anti-German sentiment.
And finally, a big developing story is the possible boycotting of the Ukraine half of the tournament. As the Chicago Tribune puts it: “Europe’s presidents shun Ukraine over Tymoshenko.” This has also put Poland in a tricky spot. Radio Free Europe reports pressure building on Poland, as an EU member, to condemn Ukraine, but so far Poland has condemned rather the politicisation of the Euros – echoing comments by Vladimir Putin, according to CNN. Le Monde reports that Amnesty is against a boycott, on the basis that the more people who visit Ukraine to observe things at close hand, the more public pressure there will be to improve human rights there. It’s further bad PR for Ukraine following widespread coverage in the Western press about the extortionate cost of accommodation, the explosion of bombs in Dnipropetrovsk, and even a possible measles outbreak. The head of Germany’s football federation told Bild there was no plan to move the Ukraine-based matches to Germany. Of course not…
Jonathan Lipman is the author of Polska Dotty, available on amazon.