I'm writing this blog from right inside the Kyiv fan zone, which for now is understandably sparse. While yesterday's games attracted a healthy crowd for a night crowned by a small firework display, the fan zone is now occupied by a mix of casual onlookers and foreign football fans – among whom I was surprised to spot a group of Brazilians earlier.
These intrepid Latin American football tourists may not be starved of quality play back home, but they told me they couldn't pass up the chance to watch a EURO with their own eyes. And what has really impressed them so far has been the level of organisation at the tournament, which they described as second to none.
The other foreign fans I have spoken to have been full of praise for Kyiv, despite the mixed nature of the recent weather. Above all, they've made the point that Ukraine seems much more like the rest of Europe than they had originally thought.
With hotel accommodation in major demand, meanwhile, many – like the travelling band of Swedes I met – have been staying in the fan camp on the banks of the Dnipro river or finding accommodation with Ukrainian friends. In fact, a few locals even approached me saying they're willing to give shelter to one or two supporters free of charge to demonstrate the hospitality of the locals.
Speaking of the locals, Ukrainians of all ages have caught the UEFA EURO 2012 bug, and everyone seems impressed with Russia's win against the Czech Republic yesterday. They now want the co-hosts to match their neighbours' performance against Sweden on Monday, and many experts have been noting the similarities between the two eastern European contenders. For a start, like Russia, Ukraine tend to be underestimated beyond their borders, while both sides are mostly made up of domestically-based players.
With that in mind, and given that a large percentage of the Sweden squad is based overseas in some of Europe's strongest leagues, perhaps Monday's match will demonstrate the growing strength of the Ukrainian club scene.
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