The former president of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, has been named the first of the Polish Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 and said: "I have had a number of different roles in my life but this one is something special. I am excited about how I will carry it out."
A day after the Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 campaign was launched in Kyiv, Ukraine, a second event took place at the Andels Hotel in Lodz a few hours before final tournament host nations Poland and Ukraine met in a friendly. The ceremony was attended by the representatives of state authorities, delegates of the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) and the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), invited guests and journalists.
"I like winning and because I am on board I want to win the preparations for UEFA EURO 2012," said Wałęsa. "I will encourage the local organising committee [LOC] representatives, sometimes I will also give them a warning. UEFA EURO 2012 is not purely a sporting event but a reason for growth in our national pride. Poland and Ukraine were reborn as countries not long ago and as such we need to put every effort into preparing the best possible tournament. Both countries can achieve much to unite all Europe."
Special attention was paid by the former president to the host city of Gdansk, where his political career began in the 1970s and indeed where he still lives. "Would Gdansk have such a beautiful stadium were we not hosting the EURO?" he asked. "Now we have a brand-new venue, so even at this moment we have reasons to be happy. We will do what is needed before June 2012."
Former national-team goalkeeper Józef Młynarczyk was present as a footballing Friend of UEFA EURO 2012. Młynarczyk, who played at two FIFA World Cups and won the European Champion Clubs' Cup with FC Porto, said: "I am delighted to be named a Friend of EURO. As a former footballer I am convinced that national coach Franciszek Smuda will build a strong team."
Also nominated was singer Maryla Rodowicz, who recorded a famous song in 1974 saluting the Poland side that finished third at that summer's World Cup. "My dream is to sing a similar song with the fans in 2012," she said. "In my female understanding football is an easy game, where one player crosses the ball and another hits the target."
The fourth Friend of UEFA EURO 2012 presented on Saturday was Robert Korzeniowski, winner of four Olympic gold medals for race walking. "We need to spread the friendship message across Europe and the entire world," he said. "I am thrilled that Serhiy Bubka, a great friend of mine, has the same role in Ukraine."
Up to 100 people in Poland will be officially named as Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 – half of them public figures selected by the LOC with the remaining spots open to the general public via competitions for people of all ages. Children will have the opportunity to participate in drawing, music and other contests with the theme of the tournament and their national pride.
"I hope that finally there will be millions of EURO friends," concluded the Polish tournament director Adam Olkowicz. PZPN president Grzegorz Lato added: "We started the campaign a few hours before the friendly between Poland and Ukraine. I hope it will be the same match in the final of UEFA EURO 2012."
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