Tournament director of the 2013 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Lithuania, Mindaugas Verbickas said that his lasting impression of the event will be the "amazing experience" enjoyed by fans, players and organisers alike.
Having been presented with the challenge of hosting a UEFA finals for the first time, the Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) excelled in its task with venues in Kaunas, Alytus and Marijampole drawing big crowds throughout the tournament. "
My overall impressions are great, especially as we hit our target of attracting 50,000 spectators to the games," Verbickas told UEFA.com.
"I am so happy when I see how things have gone and that people have come to watch the football, which has been of a high standard," the LFF's procurement and logistics department manager added. "On a local level, we don't call it a tournament, we call it a championship. It's a historic event for us. It's the first time in our history we have hosted such a big footballing showpiece."
Explaining that he was offered the opportunity of leading local event operations from a base in Kaunas last October, Verbickas said he jumped at the chance and has had no cause to regret his decision. "I have had the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of this championship, from marketing to communication and organisation, as well as my involvement with the management of a local organising committee of around 18 people," he said. "It has been a great challenge and a fantastic experience."
Praise for the finals has not just come from the LFF and UEFA. Coaches and players from the eight teams competing in Lithuania have also been impressed by the high standards on show. "The teams are very satisfied," said Verbickas. "Some are even pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere and attendances inside the stadiums. What these finals have shown is that people here really love football and they have seen some very attractive games."
France and Serbia will contest what promises to be an intriguing final in Marijampole on Thursday, and after the referee brings the showpiece to a close and the trophy has been lifted, Verbickas believes a lasting legacy will endure for the game in his country.
I really believe that this championship will act as a big stepping stone for footballing development in Lithuania," he said. "My personal wish is that after seeing this tournament, more children will want to play and train as footballers and that attendance figures in our domestic leagues will rise."
With the experience of staging a UEFA European Championship now under their belts, Lithuanian thoughts are turning to the future and the possibility of more tournaments in the years ahead. "We will look to continually improve our infrastructure and maybe build bigger stadiums," said Verbickas. For Lithuania, the future is bright.
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