The Daily Mail reports that the England team will base themselves in the “picturesque, but lively, Polish city of Krakow” in a hotel (Stary) “surrounded by bars, nightclubs and restaurants.” Funny how Krakow these days is portrayed as much as a den of vice as a centre of academic excellence.
In response to this dangerous state of affairs, the Mail and a whole slew of English papers ran a story about how new England manager Roy Hodgson – who inherited the Krakow location from his predecessor as manager, Fabio Capello – will be quite the martinet over in Poland. “My message will be very simple: Not only do I expect you to behave yourself, I’m going to demand that you behave yourself,” he’s quoted as saying. Never mind, I’m sure the WAGs can make up for their partners’ abstinence.
Talking of which, the English tabloids seem to run nothing but lengthy articles composed almost entirely of WAGs in various states of undress. It’s a tough rap researching this column for Krakow Post, but someone’s got to do it. I leave the last word on the whole affair to Hodgson: “It wasn’t my decision to go to Krakow, but if I was asked how would I like my camp, either to be isolated or the other type where there is contact with people, the players can go out and maybe have a cup of coffee and where they will see something else other than room-mates, myself, and the coaching staff, then I would say give me that any day.”
England’s matches are being played in Ukraine, of course, and this seems to be putting off their fans from attending the tournament. The Daily Mirror reports that Poles have bought the most tickets for the Euros – some 291,000 – with the English languishing in ninth place with just 21,000 tickets purchased.
The reason is said to be the threat of racism in Ukraine: England winger Theo Walcott’s family are supposed not to be going for this reason, and other fans are said to have cancelled trips for which they had already paid. On the other hand, the Independent reports that Donetsk, where England will be playing two of their group matches, has been described as “the least dangerous of all the host cities” in Ukraine by a group responsible for monitoring racism in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps of more concern are the clouds continuing to gather over Ukraine’s joint hosting of Euro 2012 in light of the Tymoshenko affair. As well as enjoying the continuing support of Poland, CNN reports that UEFA chief Michel Platini has waded in on behalf of Ukraine and thrown down the gauntlet to Angela Merkel: “If Germany is in the final of Euro, I would be sure that Madame Merkel would come to the final.” Maybe he’s right, if by then Madame Merkel has had to bow to international pressure and fully underwrite the Euro: she might appreciate the reflected glory.
And finally, I’ve spotted a programme due out on BBC Radio 4 on 24 May entitled “The Bread of Nations.” It’s described as: “A journey across the northern European plain, from Paris via Cologne to Krakow, to discover what bread has to tell us about three great European peoples.” Intriguing, as is a description of the same programme in the series to be shown the day before: “Bringing together a bishop, an imam and a rabbi for an interfaith bake in.” The mind boggles. Perhaps they should make this part of the build up to the Euros.
Jonathan Lipman is the author of Polska Dotty, available on amazon.