Former Polish president and 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Wałęsa has spoken of his passion and determination to ensure UEFA EURO 2012 is a success – on and off the field.
A life of seemingly endless travel may have dimmed Lech Wałęsa's passion for home-town club KS Lechia Gdańsk, but Poland's former president is eager to rediscover his love of the game ahead of UEFA EURO 2012.
Wałęsa is one of the most prominent figures from Poland and Ukraine to sign up for the Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 campaign, and says he is eager to contribute towards making the tournament a success.
"I will do everything I can to make sure we prepare as well as possible and that we perform at the tournament itself," he told UEFA.com. "I don't really know exactly what I can do to help, but I have many contacts and I have played a certain role in history – that could be used somehow."
His role in recent history was indeed significant. Wałęsa co-founded the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc before serving as the first elected president of a newly independent Poland between 1990 and 1995. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, he remains dedicated to promoting his homeland, and UEFA EURO 2012, he believes, is a vehicle for doing precisely that.
"Poland is aiming towards [greater integration into] Europe and the world, to attain an equal footing as quickly as possible," said the 67-year-old, whose home town of Gdansk is one of the four Polish venues. "There are some things, such as EURO 2012, that can encourage us and help us achieve our aims. That's why we should do all we can to make it a success."
Wałęsa's commitment to his work comes at the cost of any free time, and he admits it has been impossible to feed his passion for sport and Lechia Gdańsk in particular. "These days I live out of a suitcase and cannot follow football properly," explained the statesman, "but I will do my best to improve.
I like winning and I don't want us to lose in terms of the organisation or the actual football competition.
"You know, the hosts usually have better chances," he continued, warming to the football theme as he remembered Poland's golden generation of the 1970s that finished third at two FIFA World Cups. "I bet we play like we used to under [Kazimierz] Gorski, using players with the pace of Grzegorz Lato, [Włodzimierz] Lubański and Andrzej Szarmach.
"We have people who have done it before, and maybe they will help us select good players from the current crop so we are not embarrassed as hosts." Events on the pitch cannot be guaranteed but Wałęsa knows for certain that staging UEFA EURO 2012 will unite the Polish people in creating a memorable finals.