Deja vu

19.12.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

Coming summit vital after EURO 2012 draw snooze

Is the lackluster EURO 2012 draw ceremony a harbinger of things to come for the Ukrainian national team? The sporadic wins, the mediocre play. Will the team grace the country at Europes most prestigious footballing competition? The footballing elite of Europe congregated in Kyiv last week for the ritual grouping of teams for the tournament. It was supposed to be a showcase for the host countries and team management. Ukraine did neither, if one reads the Western press. Paralleling the countrys political fortunes, it failed to impress European neighbors. The next day, the Western press was flooded with articles critical of the dreary ceremony, stilted Ukrainian officials, and an equally boring set of groups. Certainly, sportswriters did their best to generate excitement over the usual group of death featuring fierce rivals, but they hardly mentioned the co-host team at all. Ukraine avoided being placed in the Group of Death saving some face from the possibility of being knocked out of the tournament early. Instead, it is in the least talked-about group of the tournament. It first meets Sweden and then takes on two lukewarm teams in Donetsk - France and England, who crashed out early at the 2010 World Cup. Let us hope they play poorly again, if only so Ukraine reach the quarter finals. The draw ceremony, which was held in Kyiv, was also supposed to be a showcase for Ukraines organizers, meant to quell controversy over unfinished infrastructure. It was supposed to proclaim that Kyiv was ready, with preparations nearing competition and an excited public gazing on. Instead, it was a warning to never get the Ukrainian authorities to organize your office Christmas party. The dull ceremony stood in sharp contrast to so much promise when Ukraine was first awarded the tournament in spring 2007. But like its European political aspirations, times have changed. The public is depressed and oppressed, with the current authorities further than ever from Europe. The Ukrainian team only has a few months to raise its game. But Ukraines European roots and values need to be on display in June. And more than anything, the Ukrainian team needs to fire up their national spirit to make the game more watchable. There may still be time, and a lot will depend on the home crowd, but even more will depend on the coming Ukraine-EU summit this month.

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