UEFA Women's EURO 2013 kicks off in Sweden on Wednesday and all the signs are pointing to a superb tournament, with the competition already garnering unprecedented interest from fans and media.
The final tournament was officially launched in a press conference at Gothenburg's Gamla Ullevi, where a capacity crowd will watch hosts Sweden begin their Group A bid against Denmark tomorrow evening. Key figures from UEFA and the local organisers expressed their delight at the profile the competition has already achieved without a ball yet being kicked.
Karen Espelund, UEFA Executive Committee member and UEFA Women's Football Committee chairwoman, said: "There have been long preparations, I have to congratulate Sweden and the local organising committee on behalf of UEFA. And the host cities have done a fantastic job; I've been walking around in Gothenburg and they are ready for the football. There are posters everywhere and flags, and people are talking about it – I can listen because I understand Swedish. They are excited about it.
"'Winning Ground' is the slogan for the tournament and a slogan with a lot of meanings. [It means] setting new standards for women's football, which is continually developing. We have the 12 best teams in Europe here now, out of the 46 who went through qualification. I am quite sure we will see a lot of good football. 'Winning Ground' also counts for the audience. There are fan zones for the first time in a women's championship."
Karl-Erik Nilsson, Swedish Football Association (SvFF) president, added: "At last we are here! The tournament is the missing part of the jigsaw – in the past we have organised the World Cup for men and women, we have organised the EURO for men and the Under-21 tournament, and now we are also organising the Women's EURO. And when UEFA come it is good weather – in 1992 for [EURO '92] we had a lovely summer, in 2009 [for the UEFA European U21 Championship] we had a lovely summer, and it is hopeful here as well."
Referring to the 'Open Goal' material distributed to help Swedish regional FAs and clubs recruit players off the back of the event, Nilsson continued: "This will inspire a lot of young kids to come into our sport. Especially young girls, but women's football at the level it is today will inspire both boys and girls. Hopefully we will have more coming to our sport after this tournament and more coming to our local competition in Sweden."
Tournament director Göran Havik praised the finals anthem Winning Ground by Eric Saade, the video for which premiered yesterday, and highlighted the heightened media interest. "Women's football has never received near the media attention of this tournament in the last couple of weeks," he said.
"At the last Women's EURO, there were 480 accredited media representatives; today for this tournament we have 705. And many of the biggest broadcasters in Europe are rights holders and are transmitting this tournament all over Europe."
As for the fans, Havik went on: "The interest in ticket sales is increasing hour by hour. In the last 24 hours, we have sold 5,000 tickets – and not for the Sweden games as they are already sold out; it is the other matches that are interesting all the spectators. Now we have 112,500 sold tickets; in 2009 [Women's EURO in Finland] it was 129,000 including free tickets. For the final, it is 22,500 sold tickets out of a 30,000 capacity, and for the match in Vaxjo on 11 July – Germany against the Netherlands – there are 6,000 sold now, so they are expecting a full house."
Attention is focused on Gothenburg for Sweden's opening game and host city ambassador Kristina Cohn Linde said: "I'm really proud to be ambassador for this fantastic tournament. It is an excellent opportunity to show off Gothenburg; we have a lot of things to show other countries.
"It is an opportunity to network between countries. There are a lot of people here we want to show things to. And the most important thing for me is to inspire young girls. And lastly to show the high level of women's football."
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