The 7th UEFA European Under-19 Championship in the Czech Republic has barely kicked off but, such is the complex operation required to stage such an event, preparations are already well under way for the 2009 finals in Ukraine.
A delegation from Ukraine have been interested observers throughout the opening stages of these finals, led by Ivan Gayvoronskyi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) who will be the chairman of the Donetsk local organising committee for 2009. "Last year we were in Austria to observe the final round but our presence here is very important; we've had the chance to go to both centres to see how everything is organised to prepare and ensure our tournament is of the very highest level," he told uefa.com. "We're ready to take the best practices from here to stage this prestigious tournament at the highest level. We are all really motivated and will do our utmost over the next year."
The latest preparation meeting took place last week and was chaired by Ivan Vasyunyk, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, with representatives from the ministries, local authorities, FFU and the local organising committee all in attendance. "We outlined the main issues involving the infrastructure, in particular the roads and the airports," Gayvoronskyi explained. "This tournament has a very close connection to UEFA EURO 2012™ and these preparations are vital to help us put on the best finals possible for both competitions. So far everything is going smoothly."
Ukraine recently held a tournament in memory of Viktor Bannikov, the first president of the FFU, in the two centres of Donetsk and Mariupol. "That allowed us to test the system for next year; we had two centres so it was just like we were gearing up for the U19 tournament," Gayvoronskyi said. "Attendances and interest was really high; we had 60,000 spectators in total and that's a good sign. Donetsk and Mariupol represent the Donbass region which is the centre of football for us. [Next year] is like a dress rehearsal for 2012."
The deputy mayors of the two host cities were present in the Czech Republic, and both are eager to do their bit to make the finals a success. "The inhabitants of Donetsk are really supportive, they're proud this tournament is happening in their city," said Nikolai Volkov. "The local authorities, the clubs and sponsors are working together and all their activities are focused on one goal. A new 50,000-capacity stadium is being built in Donetsk which will be one of the four Ukrainian venues for UEFA EURO 2012™ and provided it is completed will be used for the U19 final. We have a Ukrainian proverb: 'It's better to see once than to hear a hundred times.' This has been a good opportunity for us to avail ourselves of some good advice. We see how everybody is working for one common goal and are all united for the common effort."
Lyubomir Paliy of Mariupol was similarly effusive, adding: "Having been granted this opportunity, everything is going according to the organising programme. This gives our city the chance to develop; in the last four years we've built 24 mini-pitches, five full-sized pitches and the first covered stadium in Ukraine. Our visit here was really worthwhile because it has shown us how everything is organised – we had the theory but we've seen in practice how the offices, stadiums, venues and hotels are prepared. Now we will do our utmost to implement that in our own country."