Manchester United FC keeper Tomasz Kuszczak received special dispensation from Sir Alex Ferguson to return to his home town in Poland to become one of the latest Friends of EURO.
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Manchester United FC goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and award-winning Polish crime writer and linguist Marek Krajewski were among the latest high-profile names to sign up as Friends of UEFA EURO 2012.
The 28-year-old Kuszczak told UEFA.com he had received special permission from club manager Sir Alex Ferguson to attend a Friends of EURO ceremony in his home town, Wroclaw, on Tuesday, explaining: "We play Blackpool FC today and normally I would be with my team, but Sir Alex Ferguson gave me permission to go to Poland. That doesn't happen very often and it shows how important an event we are talking about.
"I am really proud to be part of it," added Kuszczak, capped ten times by Poland. "I was raised here and started my career here [with Śląsk Wrocław]. This is my city and I am glad I was chosen to be its representative for EURO 2012. I have plenty of ideas of how to promote this city as I think Wroclaw is not well enough known abroad, but I hope to change that very soon. The EURO is fantastic opportunity."
In Warsaw, former Polish national-team coach Antoni Piechniczek, actor and singer Bohdan Łazuka, Polar explorer Marek Kamiński, explorer Jan Mela and actress Magdalena Schejbal were unveiled by Polish tournament director Adam Olkowicz as Poland's newest Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 on the popular television programme Kawa czy Herbata (Tea or Coffee).
"I'm very happy that people still remember about me – a coach who was successful over 20 years ago, and who people sang songs about," said Piechniczek, who led Poland at the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups, told UEFA.com. "I hope that after EURO 2012 they will sing songs for [current national-team coach] Franciszek Smuda."
Łazuka sang the official song for Piechniczek's side's 1982 campaign, Tajemnica Mundialu (The Mystery of the World Cup). Now a well-known singer and actor, he is hoping next summer's finals will be worth singing about too. "UEFA EURO 2012 is very important for Poland," he said. "I am confident UEFA EURO 2012 will be a huge success."
The first person to reach the North and South Poles in the same year without external support, Kamiński added: "Preparing for EURO 2012 is a very tough project; a 'pole' to reach for Poland and Ukraine. I remember watching Poland matches when I was young. Huge emotion! So it is a great thing for me to be a Friend of EURO 2012."
Mela became the youngest man to reach the North Pole in 2004, aged just 15, and visited the South Pole eight months later. "People can achieve anything when they work together as a team," he said. "I cannot wait for EURO 2012 but there's just one problem – I don't have a TV. That is my aim for the next 500 days; I have to buy one."
Actress Schejbal said: "Being a Friend of EURO 2012 is a real pleasure; it's great distinction, especially for a woman. I want to help prove that women can also be good and loyal fans. In June 2012 I will be able to dress in the national colours and cheer for my team. Bogdan Łazuka and I are going to practice some chants."
In Ukraine, national tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskiy went on national breakfast programme Pidyom (Wake Up) to present popular comedians Olexandr Pedan and Serhiy Prytula as Friends of EURO along with designer Olesya Telizhenko.
"This tournament is very important for the development of Ukraine, and in my new role I'm going to do all I can to help our country," said Telizhenko. Pedan and Prytula, both keen football fans, were pleased to join big local sporting stars like Serhiy Bubka, Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klychko and Olexandr Shovkovskiy as Friends of EURO.
"My dream has come true, because being a part of such huge sporting event is simply fantastic," said Pedan, one of the stars of Ukrainian celebrity football team FC Maestro. Prytula added with a smile: "After receiving this certificate I can say I didn't waste my life."