By Mark Chaplin
The qualifying tournament has not even begun yet, but already neighbours Austria and Switzerland are readying themselves for the massive task of jointly hosting the UEFA EURO 2008™ final round in three summers’ time.
Hard at work
Initial preparations are well under way for the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB), together with UEFA and the Swiss Football Association (SFV/ASF). ÖFB president Friedrich Stickler spoke to uefa.com about the EURO 2008™ activities taking place in his country.
uefa.com: Are you satisfied with preparations for EURO 2008™ so far?
Friedrich Stickler: I can say yes, without hesitation. We in Austria are exactly where we wanted to be. We have signed contracts with the four stadiums. We have made significant progress in terms of taxes and copyrights. So, I think that we have been able to come further within the project development than any other EURO organiser before us.
uefa.com: How would you judge the co-operation with UEFA and your colleagues from Switzerland?
Stickler: I have a friendly relationship with my Swiss colleagues. Switzerland and Austria are very close - we have grown together, and work very well together when it comes to football. The co-operation with UEFA is very good, very professional and of a very high standard.
uefa.com: What are the immediate goals to be reached by Austria in 2005?
Stickler: The immediate work involves the legal preconditions to starting rebuilding work at stadiums. We still have a chain of contracts that need to be concluded with the host cities. We want to create a good atmosphere and good conditions in the four venues in Austria.
uefa.com: Austria has a very good youth development programme. Will the fact that EURO will take place in Austria be important for the future of football in Austria?
Stickler: I can only confirm this. For the young players, the EURO represents a real opportunity, and I think that in this domain, more has been done now than in the past. Also from a personal perspective, I think the young players want to do their utmost to participate in EURO 2008™. So far having EURO at home has been very positive for youth development, because [the players] have a really major goal ahead and can say to themselves – 'I want to play in the Austrian national team in 2008'.
uefa.com: What will Austria offer in 2008? What are typical Austrian virtues?
Stickler: I believe that we are a very friendly and hospitable country, and this goes very well together with tourism. I think that the Austrians know how to live. In Austria you work, but one knows that there is life after work, and in one’s spare time, there is a taste for life too. I would describe Austrians as people that are fond of the joys of life, and people who know what to do with the beauties that their country offers them.
uefa.com: What are the next steps for Austria in the preparations for EURO 2008?
Stickler: The immediate task is to conclude contracts, the charters, with the host cities. This will be very important because it will help reinforce the overall positive mood that is currently present all over Austria. This means that we want to build up a very positive pre-event atmosphere in Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Klagenfurt. We are concentrating especially on this now.
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