As the UEFA European Under-19 Championship draws to a close, Estonian Football Association (EFA) president Aivar Pohlak looked back with satisfaction on a first final tournament to be held in his country as he answered a selection of readers' questions.
Vadim Nahalov: Were you surprised when Greece knocked out Portugal? Do you think that these less expected results make a tournament more interesting and memorable?
Aivar Pohlak: I was not surprised, as Greece have a very powerful and technical team. At youth tournaments, it's perhaps even more important to local fans that the "big" countries take part in the crucial matches, and in that respect this tournament has gone very well.
Angelo Palmeri: Would you have preferred Estonia to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012, or to be hosting the U19 finals?
Pohlak: It's important to be happy with what you have, which means hosting the U19 final round, and not dream of a magic wand that would change things to something which we did not earn this time. In everything we do the achievement itself is not the most important thing, but how you reach it, so my wish is that Estonia will reach EURO when we have really earned it.
Artur Minajev: What do you think of Estonia's performances?
Pohlak: I am not disappointed at all. Of course I would have wanted our team to do better, but I am experienced enough to understand that our first final tournament ever could not have gone much differently. There would have been disappointment if we had deserved success, but that was not the case. We must not forget we played against the seven strongest teams in Europe.
Maarja LaRubia: Are you satisfied with the number of volunteers at the finals?
Pohlak: I am very happy with the work of the volunteers, and positively surprised that the number of people who offered themselves to help was more than we needed. In world football, a lot of activities are based on volunteer work and we still have a long way to go in this respect. I hope the U19s are the first big step in our football volunteer movement.
Vadim Nahalov: Does the fact that this tournament is going well increase Estonia's chances of hosting other tournaments in the future?
Pohlak: Of course there are certain criteria for stadiums at each tournament, and for hosting most tournaments we need our infrastructure to develop further. It is clear that if you organise a tournament very well then the possibility to host future events is bigger, but only if the infrastructure allows. Infrastructure is the core of hosting any tournament.
Erika Marnot: Portugal and Spain teams produced excellent performances at the Lilleküla Stadium. When and how can Estonia reach the same level, or should we find our own way?
Pohlak: In terms of the level of play, skill and intelligence, of course our youth players must try to reach this high standard, but at the same time it is clear that the way we play must be different. The way Spain are playing at this tournament is similar to their senior team and the same applies to Portugal, even down to their play going through the left-winger Bruma, who wears the No7 shirt like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Needless to say it would be great if, one day, Estonian youth players could dictate the flow of a game against Portugal or Spain. What perhaps would be more important and realistic is that this could happen one day at men's level. To achieve that will, of course, take a lot of hard work.
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