On the day when UEFA EURO 2012 begins in the Polish capital, several hundred miles away in Kyiv a circus venue-turned fan area opens its doors to the public.
Surely a mecca for lovers of the beautiful game, the Small Football Arena will be situated in the National Circus of Ukraine building – located on Peremohy Square – until the end of the tournament. It has everything a supporter could wish for: beer, soft drinks, fast food and gigantic television screens.
Project coordinator Oleg Kyi told UEFA.com: "The hall, in the form of an amphitheatre, can accommodate over 1,700 spectators and allows almost every fan to sit in front of a screen. There are four of them, 50 square metres each. Local fan bars can also accommodate up to 400 supporters, so the whole fan area can accommodate around 2,200 people."
Visitors to the historic building are normally captivated by acrobats, animals, clowns and jugglers; from 8 June to 1 July they will instead marvel at some of the best footballers on the planet. "It's a great pleasure to watch players from the 16 best European teams," said circus regular and local fan Mykhailo Kolomiets. "It is very comfortable and cool here. I suppose it is a good alternative for those who, for whatever reason, could not get a ticket for the stadium."
The National Circus of Ukraine site shares its birthday, 5 November, with Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin. Nobody knows whether Blokhin, eight at the time, was present on opening night in 1960. What is certain, though, is that the place will be packed to the rafters for Ukraine's Group D opener against Sweden on Monday, a match played a short distance away at the resplendent Olympiyskiy Stadium.
Fans at the inauguration will also be treated to dancers, a parade of drummers and a laser show. During the co-hosts' games, seats will be reserved for a famous married couple in the circus business – animal trainers Liudmyla and Volodymyr Shevchenko. Given they share the surname of a Ukrainian football great, it is only right that husband and wife are treated to some of the best seats in the house.
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