All set for Euro draw
CONCERN: HOST ROMANIA LOOK FAR FROM READY ON AND OFF THE PITCH
Bucharest holds the draw for the Euro 2020 group stage today but with just seven months to go until kickoff in Romania, one of the tournament’s 12 host countries looks far from ready both on and off the pitch.
Mirel Radoi took over as coach after Romania failed to make next summer’s finals via the main qualification route and his new side will have to navigate playoffs in March if they want to take their place.
Meanwhile the promised modernisation of the training facilities for the four countries who will play in Bucharest during the tournament, where three Group C matches and one last 16 game will take place, has been hit by a series of delays.
The holdups have caused consternation among the public and the new centre-right government.
“I’m disappointed that neither the stadiums nor the transport infrastructure for tourists will be finished, and what about the state of Romanian football?” said Alexandru, 38, after his country’s 5-0 defeat to Spain in qualifying earlier this month.
Romania finished fourth in Group F, seven points away from the two spots that would have automatically qualified them for the Euros, and have to get past Iceland in their playoff semifinal in Reykjavik on March 26 before a potential final in either Bulgaria or Hungary five days later.
Success in the playoffs would give Romania the chance to play three Group C matches in their home country, with the Netherlands and Ukraine already assured of their places in that group.
Off the field, Romania’s new prime minister Ludovic Orban has bemoaned the frequent delays in pre-tournament preparations.
The leader of the pro-European National Liberal Party (PNL), which leads Romania after the previous left-wing government collapsed in a no-confidence vote in October, was gobsmacked at the state of the four sites after a visit earlier this month.
“Work only started four years after the bid,” he lamented, implicitly laying the blame at the door of the previous government.
Orban believes that only two of the four training bases will be completed in time for the first group game to be hosted at the city’s 55 000-capacity National Arena, scheduled for June 14.
The foundations have only just been laid on the third facility, while a legal wrangle means that work on the fourth is yet to begin.
“I was happy when I heard that we would be hosting matches, thinking that we would finally have some new infrastructure in Bucharest. But we’ve handled ‘the Romanian way’,” says Adrian, 32, joking about his country’s inability to fulfil its commitments.
Begun in October, the construction of a railway line that was supposed to connect Bucharest’s Henri Coanda airport to the city’s Gara de Nord train station is being hamstrung by protests from local residents.
However Florin Sari, the head of Romania’s organising committee for the tournament, insisted that worries over lateness were unfounded, saying that “we have come a long way and we’re on the home stretch”.
“The promised infrastructure was not required by Uefa, it was simply to support our bid (to host matches),” he said, adding that the teams would be able to use three other training facilities in the Bucharest suburbs if necessary.
The multi-host format of this edition of the Euros has given Romania’s tourist industry cause to celebrate, expecting up to 120 000 foreign tourists. – AFP