Euro 2012: What Happens When a Country Wins Before They Even Score a Goal?

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IISeptember 9, 2010

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - JUNE 12:  Poland fans show their support during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Poland at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 12, 2008 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In sports, success is ultimately defined by wins and losses. In soccer, or world football, goals eventually determine a team’s ultimate glory and accomplishment. However, as a country, especially the hosts of a major tournament, success goes far beyond goal posts and field.

Success leads to celebration and jubilation from the winning side’s fanbase, but what happens when a team and a country has already won, before the competition begins? 

For example, take a look back to the World Cup in South Africa. Never before has the game of football graced the continent of Africa, let alone with an opportunity to host the world’s largest tournament: the World Cup.

There were many naysayers regarding the ultimate success and tireless planning of the committee in South Africa, but in the end the infrastructure that was demanded and desired by FIFA regulations, was in fact delivered.

If you need any help remembering, here is a gentle reminder, check this out.

Expectations were exceeded, and the host nation, South Africa, put on a month-long carnival for the world to see, a nation to live it, and over 500,000 fans from across the world experienced it first hand.

The traveling fans experienced a side of the world that is never on display, not even for the football world to see. South Africa opened its doors and welcomed the tournament with open arms, through all the doubt.

Although the games were entertaining, the success that the country received going forward from the tournament in terms of roads, hotels, airports, community centers, athletic facilities, etc will boost the overall growth of nation that was undoubtedly struggling prior to winning the bid to host the World Cup.

Well, that same story that took place in South Africa this past summer will try to unfold in a similar fashion in 2012 for the Euro 2012 championship. Sure, this is not the World Cup, but to host a continent’s soccer championship is a major undertaking. The stability of a country’s government, safety and security, as well as amenities are all heavy determining factors in deciding on a host nation.

Although the World Cup is hosted in only one nation, in recent tournaments UEFA, the European football governing body, has decided to allow two hosts to share a bid in a joint effort in a situation like South Africa, where the host nation’s country might not be up to par with a United States, England, Italy, France, Japan, etc in terms of infrastructure or gross domestic product.

For instance, when you look around those countries, for the most part, technology and communities are in the year 2010. 

The same shortcomings that were applied to South Africa prior to their overwhelming job hosting the cup have been applied to Poland and Ukraine’s joint bid to host UEFA’s Euro 2012 championship.

Although these are European Union countries now, it was not too long ago that both Poland and Ukraine’s governments were under corrupt Soviet rule. Soviet control ended in 1991, and there have been many improvements in quality of life for both countries, however, in terms of sports, their athletic arenas, structures, and youth development are centuries behind the other trendy European destinations. 

Soccer not only brings entertainment to the countries that host, but upon completion of the tournament, an improved lifestyle is the reward for a job well done. Just ask South Africa.

However, just for a second imagine that you are watching the World Cup final, the Super Bowl, or any major sporting event, but the event is being hosted in a 5,000 “seat” capacity stadium, built in the 1940s, with barbed wire, chain link fence barricades, and public safety officers wearing body armor from head to toe.

This very same situation was the scenario that the UEFA committee completely ignored in the decision making process in choosing Poland and Ukraine as joint host. 

Then again, I doubt FIFA ignored many of those same drawbacks with South Africa, and the continent of Africa hosting a major tournament this past summer. I would almost go as far as saying that UEFA and FIFA welcomed these obstacles, so that in turn these two countries can now grow as a country not only in football but in economic endeavors as well.

Stadiums across the country now have state-of-the-art features, 100-yard long high definition jumbotrons, first-class luxury suite boxes, luxurious seats, and every amenity imaginable. For Poland and Ukraine, their stadium are old, run-down, concrete structures, many with no seats or seatbacks at all, let alone cup holders, but with the job of hosting comes the job of building. 

In 2012, the eight host cities for the Euro championships are Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, and Gdansk in Poland, as well as Kiev, Donetsk, Lviv, Kharkiv in Ukraine. Some of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe, but their athletic facilities overall attractiveness and fan friendly environment left a little more to be desired. 

Prior to construction and renovation of stadiums, airports, hotels, roads, train lines, etc, corruption ran ramped throughout Polish football. From 2006 until 2009, more than 200 arrests of referees, coaches, team officials, observers, players, as well as many high-ranking Polish Football Union (PZPN) officials were made due to a major match-fixing scandal.

By the start of the 2009 Polish football season, only 15 referees or officials remained from that time period—all the rest were deemed corrupt. 

In Ukraine, the story was eerily similar. Extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, and even murder were among the dubious activities that Ukrainian Premier League team owners were involved in. Local police in Ukraine found the trace of a widespread organized crime ring called “The Bashmaki,” or “the shoes,” of course. The shoes, not cleats, were responsible for over 50 deaths, and kidnappings in 2008.

In analyzing this scenario, no matter how well intention, one might think that UEFA was naive in choosing a joint bid from two “East Bloc” nations, and their Soviet Union-riddled infrastructures, especially over a more readymade host: Italy.

However, just as South Africa was thought to be an underwhelming choice for host of the 2010 World Cup, so too are the same stones that observers cast upon UEFA’s choice of Poland and Ukraine two years ago.

However, as the tournament commenced on African soil, the questions were answered immediately, and the resounding sentiment, was a job well done. For Poland and Ukraine, those same congratulatory are expected.

Euro 2012 will only last three weeks, compared to the month long World Cup, but the infrastructure built for the event, such as roadways and train lines, will be a backbone for these two countries for decades to come. 

According to the Warsaw School of Economics, a report was compiled that claimed Poland’s accumulated GDP growth until the year 2020 will amount to 27.9 billion zloty, or 6.74 billion euro.   

Whether or not you score that great play as goal for the home team is your decision. Moreover, a sense of euphoria was reported to spread through Poland when the announcement was made in April of 2007, and a rebirth of dying soccer nation was reborn. It was almost as if their team had already won and scored all the goals, but the tournament was over four years away.

Before we know it the tournament will be here. Qualifying has already begun, and if all goes well in preparations by the host countries, the only thing left to do is actually score and win contests during the tournament.