"EURO began today," said ex-Poland striker Zbigniew Boniek as ceremonies in Kyiv and Warsaw marked the start of UEFA EURO 2012 ticket sales, another milestone en route to the finals.
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UEFA president Michel Platini hailed "another milestone on the road to UEFA EURO 2012" as ceremonies took place in Kyiv and Warsaw to mark the start of ticket sales.
Mr Platini was at the Copernicus Science Centre in the Polish capital and announced that interest in next summer's final tournament was already high, with nearly 600,000 fans from 161 countries registering with the ticket portal. "Most of the requests come from Poland and Ukraine and I'm really happy about that, as it shows that the people in the host nations are very interested in the event," he said.
"Today is another milestone on the road to EURO. We have already had mascots being unveiled, then the start of the ticket registration process and from today fans are applying for them. These are key dates, but of course there are more to come."
The next one perhaps arrives on 31 March when direct sales of UEFA EURO 2012 tickets, conducted exclusively via UEFA.com, will end. Throughout this month everyone will have an equal chance to buy tickets, irrespective of when the application is made. Once the application period is closed, there will be a lottery to determine successful applicants for all those matches that have been oversubscribed.
Four lucky fans did not have to wait that long, however, after competition winners in Poland and Ukraine were revealed – their prize being four tickets each for one of the opening games. "When I got the call to say I had won the ticket, I couldn't believe it," said one winner, Paweł Michalczak. "I thought either there is a major catch or that one of my friends was joking as they knew I had applied for tickets for the 2006 World Cup and EURO 2008 without success. I'm extremely happy."
"EURO started today," said Zbigniew Boniek, on stage alongside fellow EURO ambassador Andrzej Szarmach and Polish Football Federation (PZPN) president Grzegorz Lato. A third ambassador, Oleg Blokhin, was central to events at Ukrainian House in Kyiv – 820km separate the capitals of Poland and Ukraine but there was no difference in terms of palpable excitement.
"I don't think we need to advertise the tickets in any way as I can't imagine a fan in Ukraine who doesn't want to support the team at the stadium," said Blokhin, Ukraine coach between 2003 and 2007. "I was delighted to see so many Ukrainians in Germany at the 2006 World Cup, they gave us huge support. I'm sure the stadiums will be full."
Competition winner Vita Mymrenko, from the town of Bila Tserkva near Kyiv, will be there after picking up her tickets. "I was at my work when I got the call," she explained. "I couldn't believe it: it took some time for me to come to my senses and call my husband to tell him the news. We'll go to the match together with our son Bogdan."
Further details on the types of ticket available can be found in the ticketing section of UEFA.com.