Ukraine soccer federation (UFF) president Hrihory Surkis has accused Polish Sports Minister Tomasz Lipiec of undermining the two countries’ chances of staging the Euro 2012 finals, according to Sport Time, referring to Reuters.
Last week Lipiec suspended the Polish Football Association after a match-fixing investigation, angering the world and European governing bodies.
‘Mr Lipiec, with his actions, simply stabbed us in the back,’ Surkis told Reuters while attending a six-team invitational tournament in Israel.
The $8 million tournament, involving top teams from Russia, Ukraine and Israel, is sponsored by Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
‘You would believe that in his high government position, being his country’s sports minister, he should refrain from doing something that would severely damage not only his own country’s bid but also ours.’
Both FIFA and UEFA, who resent government involvement in soccer matters, have condemned Lipiec for his actions. FIFA also warned Poland they would be banned from international competition unless the government reversed its decision.
The joint Ukraine-Poland bid is one of three being considered by UEFA along with a solo bid from Italy and a joint bid from Croatia and Hungary.
‘We had a very strong bid going, maybe the best of all three,’ said Surkis, who was elected as as a member of the executive board at last week’s UEFA Congress in Duesseldorf, Germany.
‘I strongly believed that we were the front runners for Euro 2012 because UEFA’s visiting commission was very impressed with what we have done,’ he added.
‘We also had the government and public support. Opinion polls taken in both Poland and Ukraine have shown that 85 percent of the population supports our bid. Would you imagine how many people would be disappointed if we failed?’
Surkis said that a proposal at the congress to increase the number of teams competing at Euro finals from 16 to 24 starting from 2012, could cause problems for Poland and Ukraine.
‘Obviously it would add extra work, maybe cause some problems, but on the other hand, nothing is impossible,’ he said.
‘As it is right now, Poland and Ukraine would host two first-round groups each, but if they decide to go with 24 teams, each of our countries would only have to host three groups. That’s not such a huge burden.’
Despite the setbacks, Surkis remained optimistic.
‘I really hope that Mr Lipiec and his government would soon find a consensus with UEFA and solve the problem,’ he said.
‘Besides some of our rivals, Hungary and Croatia, also have problems.
‘In any case, I still believe in our bid and still have hope. In the next few months we must convince everyone that not only we want Euro 2012 but, more importantly, that we are very capable of staging the competition.’
UEFA will announce the winning bid in April.