A new landmark was reached today in the countdown to UEFA EURO 2004™ with the signing of contracts by the ten owners of the stadiums to be used in the tournament.
Secretary presides over ceremony
The ceremony took place at the Exponor auditorium, Porto, and was presided over by the Portuguese sports and youth secretary of state, Hermínio Loureiro.
'Important and exciting day'
Dr Gilberto Madaíl, president of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) and chairman of Euro 2004, S.A., said: "Today is a particularly important and exciting day to the UEFA EURO 2004™ tournament as it is the day when we seal the commitment of the Portuguese government, the stadium owners and the town halls to bring the best possible conditions to stage such a prestigious event.
"Delivering ten stadiums is a masterwork. We would like to thank the Portuguese governments past and current that joined us in this enterprise, and every town hall and club, some of them who followed us with a large portion of sweat and tears to make this dream come true. This is a step further in the pledge we made to the UEFA Executive Committee, in Aachen, on 12 October 1999, to host the best UEFA European Football Championship finals ever."
UEFA Treasurer, Executive Committee member and Euro 2004, S. A. vice-president, Mathieu Sprengers addressed the audience on behalf of UEFA. "Five years ago, [the] FPF had the extraordinary idea of hosting the UEFA European Football Championship with ten brand-new stadiums and this was the main reason why the UEFA Executive Committee chose the Portuguese bid," he said. "UEFA and its Executive Committee agree that this is one of the most important moments to the organisation of the tournament and this is the first act to enhance one of the best tournaments ever."
'Togetherness and comradeship'
Hermínio Loureiro stressed that "these ten venues will function as congregational marks for the Portuguese youth to practice more sports activities - not only football". He added: "
Portugal will have renewed infrastructure and that can be a boosting factor to the sports development of the whole country. It is our goal, not only to deliver the best UEFA European Football Championship ever but also to raise the number of those who play sports in general, while raising the comfort and security of those who attend the venues. It is our aim to promote family spirit, togetherness and comradeship of all who attend live football matches."
Diogo Gaspar Ferreira, chairman of Portuguese Stadiums Association (APE), praised the Portuguese Government and FPF for believing "that a small country like Portugal could deliver ten new and rebuilt stadiums to host an UEFA European Football Championship, something never done in previous UEFA national team competitions".
Gaspar Ferreira said the "unity that bound all ten stadium owners" was "an extraordinary achievement". He said: "This is the beginning of a new era for Portuguese stadium management. We want this to be the best UEFA European Football Championship ever, and we will do everything we can to fulfil this pledge."
Match schedule unveiled
The other highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling by the Euro 2004, S. A. chairman, Dr Madaíl, of the provisional match schedule for the finals.
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