By Mark Chaplin
Switzerland is gearing itself up to be the centre of attention for the UEFA EURO 2008™ final round in three summers' time, together with co-hosts and neighbours Austria.
Hard at work
The Swiss Football Association (SFV/ASF) has been hard at work during the initial preparatory stage, in conjunction with UEFA and their Austrian counterparts. uefa.com caught up with SFV/ASF president Ralph Zloczower to find out about the UEFA EURO 2008™ activities taking place in his country.
uefa.com: Are you satisfied with preparations for UEFA EURO 2008™ so far?
Ralph Zloczower: Yes, I am satisfied with the preparations at all levels. Co-operation with the Austrian Football Association and UEFA is excellent. I can actually say only positive things.
uefa.com: The structures have been set up, do you have now an overall feeling that momentum is building?
Zloczower: I have already had that feeling for a while now, after [UEFA] EURO 2004™ in Portugal. We are still not fully staffed, but nevertheless we have done some very important work.
uefa.com: Good co-operation between the three sides is a precondition for good results…
Zloczower: Of course, good mutual understanding is a precondition, and this is fully the case.
uefa.com: What are the main issues that Switzerland will have to address in the coming period?
Zloczower: Until the end of the year, we have to conclude negotiations with the host cities and sign contracts, so that the cities know what their duties will be. They need to know what their obligations are, but it is also important for the cities to understand what their benefits will be from this major event in 2008. At the moment this is the priority. The preparations for the first draw in Montreux on 27 January next year are also progressing at full speed.
uefa.com: What will Switzerland offer for 2008? What are typical Swiss virtues?
Zloczower: The virtues that are respected around the world are our punctuality, tidiness and security. One always knows where they stand in Switzerland. These are, I would say, our virtues, in addition to an excellent infrastructure. I can also add hospitality and friendliness. I am sure that the thousands that will come and visit our country will not be disappointed.
uefa.com: Substantial and excellent youth football development work is being carried out in Switzerland. Because EURO 2008™ will take place in Switzerland, will young players be motivated to participate in the tournament?
Zloczower: Yes, that is true. Our development of youth football, which started about ten years ago, is slowly bearing fruit. We have a special programme, FUTURO 2008. The 15 best players in the country are being followed and trained; the goal is to create, by 2008, a strong national team which will be capable of taking part in the competition for as long as possible. The success of a EURO can depend on the success of the national team. Of course, the case is no different in Austria.
uefa.com: What are the next steps?
Zloczower: The host city arrangements have to be completed, as well as the security negotiations, in terms of who will bear the costs for the large security operations. Sooner or later, the associations will also be involved in the discussions and I am relatively optimistic that we will be able also to resolve this issue.
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