In the last of our three UEFA EURO 2012 reviews we talk to Grigoriy Surkis, Oleh Gusev, Serhiy Rebrov and Robert Lewandowski about the legacy for Poland and Ukraine.
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While the football was exhilarating at UEFA EURO 2012, the long-term legacy of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine will be the real measure of the competition's success. In the third and final part of UEFA.com's look back at the event, we assess the benefits that both countries will hope to accrue.
Eight cities – four in each nation – staged matches, all with new or revamped stadiums as well as upgraded rail, road and air links. Ukraine midfielder Oleh Gusev told UEFA.com: "It was an honour that Europe chose us to host the EURO. That means we've proved our value, not just in football terms, but also as a reliable country. I'm proud of our country, that's for sure."
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski added: "When it comes to organising the tournament, the Poles showed that they're able to do it. The fans could see that in Poland everything is on a world-class level. The tournament was fantastic. The fans had a big football feast throughout the championship. Suddenly all fans could be united, regardless of where they came from."
In Ukraine alone, it is estimated the finals brought in almost 2 million visitors. All were inspired by high-profile Friends of EURO including Vitaliy and Volodymyr Klitschko, Serhiy Bubka and Andriy Shevchenko.
Shevchenko's former strike partner Serhiy Rebrov said: "There are people like Klitschko, Bubka, Shevchenko, who really promote a healthy way of life – and the young people who are just making their first steps in life and don't understand where to go can aspire to the level of these people. The EUROs probably show that there is a leader like Andriy Shevchenko. I think now that many children, after watching the matches, will try to aspire to his level and do their best."
That opportunity to evolve and cultivate football in Poland and Ukraine was perhaps the greatest gift that UEFA EURO 2012 had to offer. There has already been an increase in spending on grassroots projects in both countries, with thousands of youngsters expected to gain in the coming years.
Grigoriy Surkis, former Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) president, said: "Any event of such importance and scale will cause a football boom. One thing is to watch the football on TV; naturally, it is completely different to be present in the stadiums and watch the game live."
Lewandowski concurred: "The European Championship was something unique. A great event, not only for the Polish people, but also for the whole of Europe. New stadiums, great expectations, a big football feast, a nice atmosphere.
"Obviously we wanted to play our best. We didn't win the last match, otherwise we would have been in the quarter-finals, so we were missing something, but we're aware that we did all we could. I think we also gave the fans a lot of happiness, above all in the matches against Greece and even Russia, where we played well and scored beautiful goals. It was something special for the players and the fans. It gave us a lot as a nation."