UEFA President Michel Platini says Poland and Ukraine have organised a UEFA EURO 2012 that will live long in the memory, and which leaves behind an important legacy for the co-hosts.
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Pride in Poland, Ukraine, UEFA and the strength of European football. UEFA President Michel Platini has described UEFA EURO 2012 as a unique event which has left an important legacy as he looked back on three memorable weeks that, he said, has also emphasised the special nature of national team football.
"Poland and Ukraine have organised a fantastic tournament which will remain in our memories," said Mr Platini. "Never was the phrase 'Creating History Together' more true in terms of economy, infrastructure, football development and social development.
"EURO 2012 has left the best legacy that we could have ever produced," he added, "and my overriding feeling today is one of pride. Poland and Ukraine have showed themselves to be up to the task of organising the tournament. The Polish and Ukrainian people have showed their enthusiasm, and they have set a very high bar for the future which will be difficult to match. The EURO is leaving a very significant legacy in the two countries.
"What I have seen from people in Poland and Ukraine," Mr Platini continued, "is the great pride they have had in how they have organised this tournament – they have been proud to show how football also exists in Eastern Europe.
"The players have played excellent attacking football, there have been a lot of goals, and the fans have made a unique atmosphere. I'm proud of everyone who has been involved in this project. The interest in national team football has also been demonstrated by the television audiences – European football is very entertaining.
"EURO 2012 has really showed how much quality, intensity and technical ability there is in European football," the UEFA President reflected. "There has been fair play, and refereeing decisions have been very good – the tournament has shown what five-man referee teams can bring. They have acted as a deterrent and [players] have behaved themselves in the penalty area in particular.
Mr Platini gave particular praise to the presidents of the two host football associations – Grzegorz Lato (Poland) and Grigoriy Surkis (Ukraine) – for their work in preparing and bringing UEFA EURO 2012 to fruition.
Mr Lato replied: "Thanks to UEFA for giving us the possibility to organise this EURO. The two countries have passed the exam collectively. Thanks to the Polish government for its input and investments. It was a big leap for us in terms of sports and social development. It was a great 'first', and the fans created something perfect. I think this will be an important experience for the two countries – to have organised one of the major sports events in the world."
Mr Surkis added: "I would like to thank UEFA and its Executive Committee and President for the unique opportunity for my country to host this wonderful celebration of football together with Poland. The decision to bring the final round to the east was a historic one for both of our countries. I'm grateful to the Ukrainian government, which delivered all of its commitments. Ukraine has showed that we are part of the European home. Ukraine's future generations will also benefit, because the tournament leaves us with wonderful infrastructures."
Looking ahead to the first 24-team tournament in France in 2016, Mr Platini said he was confident it would be a success. "I think that we have the means to have 24 good teams in Europe," he said. "When the national associations take part in a tournament, they are proud to do so – it is good for promoting football, for developing the national team and developing young players in that country. There will be a lot more joy in many more countries if we have 24 teams."
Mr Platini also revealed that discussions were to be held on the possibility of staging UEFA EURO 2020 not in one or two host countries, but in a number of cities across Europe. "This is an idea I feel passionate about, it could be very interesting moving forward," the UEFA President said, "To have the European Championship all over Europe in 2020. The Executive Committee said that we should work on this idea. We will meet with the national associations, with a view to taking a decision in December or January."