Tuesday, May 1, 2012
It is remarkable how much negative news is coming out of Ukraine ahead of the European Championships. In the lead up to previous tournaments most of the negativity has been pure press propaganda and nonsensical scare stories but, this time round, there are genuine concerns about a number of issues in the lead up to Euro 2012.
You sense that many politicians are already manipulating events in Ukraine for their own political ends. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of a number of high profile foreign leaders threatening to boycott Ukraine, allegedly because of the reported mistreatment in prison of former Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently on hunger strike. Tymoshenko's imprisonment is considered by many Western leaders to be politically motivated but those same politicians will certainly appreciate that that is simply how Ukrainian politics works.
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says he will be boycotting Ukraine, while the presidents of the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Italy have also confirmed that they plan to be 'no shows' at the upcoming Yalta Summit on May 11. You sense that the familiar game of Ukrainian political tennis between the EU and Russia is about to intensify once again.
And then last week there were the bombings in Dnipropetrovsk. Was 'somebody' sending a threat to the current Ukrainian government just six weeks ahead of the start of Euro 2012?
Meanwhile, the scandals continue over the killings of stray dogs, infrastructure project cash disappearing into black holes of corruption and, of course, the continued overpricing of accommodation in Donetsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lvov - sometimes by as much as ten-times the usual prices.
With all of the above playing out MTAG - like many of the fans contemplating whether or not to travel to the tournament - had a bit of a wobble last week about our decision to attend Euro 2012. Eventually though, we got our heads together and transport has finally been booked to the Ukraine.
The plan is to fly into Poland and to then travel overland to Lvov. They are currently asking 40 quid per night for a dorm bed in the city (approximately the same as we have paid for our one-way flights to Poland) but we don't intend to pay that so we are going to hold off booking any accommodation for now. Anyway, the main thing is that More Than a Game is now committed to Ukraine and has flights booked. An itinerary is taking shape.
As our flights are booked it also looks like the English FA is finally about to appoint a national team manager. If it is Roy Hodgson then I feel nonplussed. Personally, I would be happy for a manager to come in on a 'tournament-only' contract. Give somebody a crack at the tournament without the distraction of what might come afterwards. Anyway, expectations for England are very low so maybe it doesn't matter too much.
The news coming out of Ukraine isn't currently very positive...but a little over five weeks from now we will be setting off for the bright lights of Lvov, Kyiv and Ivano Frankivsk.