Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 22 News List

UEFA bosses tour Hungaryto evaluate Euro 2008 bid

WARM PRAISE Soccer officials were impressed during a tour of the nation's stadiums, but were confronted by fans who said that Hungary was unfit to stage the event

AP , BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

Soccer fans hold up a banner reading ``No 2012'' in opposition to a joint bid for the Euro 2008 soccer championships by Hungary and Croatia in Budapest, Hungary, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

UEFA officials toured facilities in Hungary on Friday and praised the country's joint bid with Croatia to host soccer's 2012 European Championship.

"What we see in Croatia and Hungary is a very strong commitment," UEFA's Euro 2012 administrator Giorgio Marchetti said. "We know Hungary and Croatia consider this more than just a football event -- they consider it a strong and powerful engine for further development in their countries."

Croatia and Hungary are competing jointly against Italy and a Poland-Ukraine joint bid. A decision on the bid will be made on Dec. 8.

Marchetti and other UEFA officials inspected sites in Croatia earlier this week.

"This has been a very interesting journey, ... and we feel that both parties [Hungary and Croatia] are taking their tasks seriously," Marchetti said.

Croatia and Hungary have pledged to invest tens of millions of euros in building or renovating stadiums as well as improving key infrastructure to host the quadrennial tournament.

On Friday evening, about 300 fans from Hungary's top clubs -- including Ferencvaros and Ujpest -- protested against the Hungarian Football Federation and gave a letter to the UEFA officials saying they did not support Hungary's Euro 2012 bid.

"The moral level of Hungarian football is unacceptable," the letter said. "The Hungarian stadiums, as well as everything else connected with football, are rotten ... At the current stage, we, the active fans of the major Hungarian clubs, declare that we cannot support the Hungarian bid for the Euro 2012."

Balazs Magyar, one of the rally's organizers, said Hungarian football officials had imposed too many rules on attending games, were unconcerned with fans' interests, and had allowed ticket prices to climb too high.

UEFA scouts visited facilities in Budapest as well as in Gyor, Szekesfehervar and Debrecen, where games would be played.

Zagreb, Croatia's capital, is bidding for the opening game of Euro 2012, while Budapest hopes to host the final.

FIFA is drafting a top German soccer official to help organize the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"My goal is to use my experience to make the 2010 World Cup a full success," Horst Schmidt, general-secretary of the German soccer federation, said on Friday.

Schmidt said he would spend one week per month advising world soccer's governing body on the South African tournament while continuing his work for the German federation.

"There is probably no one worldwide who combines as much experience as he does in the areas of organization, security or ticketing," FIFA secretary-general Urs Linsi said.

Schmidt helped organize the successful 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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