After Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Poland's president from 1995 to 2005, became one of the latest Friends of UEFA EURO 2012, the 56-year-old spoke to UEFA.com about his role and the need for his country to rise to the challenge of co-hosting the finals.
UEFA.com: More than 12 million people have applied for UEFA EURO 2012 tickets. Is that huge level of interest a surprise to you?
Aleksander Kwaśniewski: I was expecting that interest would be very high. This level of demand simply vindicates UEFA's decision to stage the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, which have about 90 million people between them. The demand for tickets in Poland and Ukraine is a lot bigger because [UEFA EURO 2008 co-hosts] Austria and Switzerland have only a few million inhabitants.
UEFA.com: How did you feel four years ago when Poland and Ukraine were chosen as UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts?
Kwaśniewski: I was very happy. I was president when Michał Listkiewicz, then president of the Polish Football Federation, and Football Federation of Ukraine president Grygoriy Surkis came to me with the idea of being joint hosts. Me and the president of Ukraine at that time, Leonid Kuchma, signed a letter of intent. I was involved in this project from the very beginning. It was not easy – we had strong rivals like Italy – but we managed to achieve our goal in the end.
UEFA.com: Were you not afraid of this huge challenge?
Kwaśniewski: If more than 20 years after its transformation [with the fall of the old communist regime], Poland wants to play an important role in Europe, not only in football but also in terms of politics and economics, it must be ready to stage events like this.
We need to challenge ourselves. I hope this tournament will put Poland up there with the top countries in Europe.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.