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Klitschko brothers lend heavyweight backing

Boxing world champions Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klitschko have added their names to the initial four Friends of UEFA EURO 2012 in Ukraine, vowing to promote the tournament globally.

Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klitschko become Friends of EURO at a ceremony in Kyiv
Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klitschko become Friends of EURO at a ceremony in Kyiv ©UEFA.com

World heavyweight boxing champions, and perhaps Ukraine's most renowned sportsmen, Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klitschko, have joined Friends of UEFA EURO 2012, a campaign to promote the finals in Poland and Ukraine.

"I have been a friend of EURO since April 2007 when I took part in the final presentation [of Poland and Ukraine's bid] in Cardiff, and now it's a great pleasure for me and my brother to join this honoured group called Friends of EURO," said Vitaliy Klitschko at Ukraine's second Friends of EURO event after the scheme's 3 September launch in the co-host nation.

The Klitschko brothers signed up as Friends of EURO at the local organising committee (LCO) headquarters in Kyiv on Tuesday, following the appointment of their country's initial four members – Olympians Serhiy Bubka and Valeriy Borzov, publisher Ivan Malkovych and singer Svyatoslav Vakarchuk – at the Kyiv Intercontinental Hotel earlier this month.

Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president Grigoriy Surkis, deputy prime minister Borys Kolesnikov, UEFA Events SA operations director Martin Kallen and Ukrainian tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskyi welcomed the two national sporting icons whose mission it will be to promote the tournament throughout the world.

"The Klitschko brothers are great worldwide representatives for Ukraine, and I'm sure they will represent the EURO 2012 with the same success," said Martin Kallen. "What can go wrong at EURO with such friends?"

WBC heavyweight champion Vitaliy Klitschko sounded an equally confident note: "I have no doubts EURO 2012 will be a triumph for our country – in terms of football, economy and infrastructure development. The great Nelson Mandela once said, 'Sport has the power to change the world.' I agree wholeheartedly and want to rephrase that: 'EURO 2012 has the power to change Ukraine.' With hard work I believe we can organise a world-class tournament. However, this is a task not only for the LOC, the government, UEFA or the Klitschko brothers and friends; it's a task for all Ukrainians."

Volodymyr Klitschko, who holds the IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts, concurred with his older sibling: "We know what EURO 2012 can do for us, but now it's time to ask what we can do for the tournament. Every Ukrainian has to contribute to this national project. I attended matches at the FIFA World Cup in Germany and UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and I remember the wonderful festival atmosphere. I want all Ukrainians to be friends of EURO 2012, so that every visitor to Ukraine in summer 2012 will feel like they are among friends."

Indeed, football comes behind only boxing in the pair's sporting priorities. "We really love the game," explained Vitaliy Klitschko. "It's our second favourite sport and we like talking about it with friends like Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov. Football is a very special sport for our country, probably the most important one. EURO 2012 will give a great boost to the game.”

Up to 100 people in both Ukraine and Poland will be officially nominated as Friends of EURO – half of them public figures selected by the LOC, with the remaining spots open to the general public via various competitions for people of all ages.