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Euro 2012's smiling face would have delighted Uefa's president but he must deal with the sour taste from empty seats at Spain against Portugal

The two girls in the coffee shop have it down to a fine art. And they execute the gentle little sting with smiles as bright as the sun glinting off the golden domes of Kiev's many cathedrals.

You're killing a couple of mid-morning hours between flights in Boryspil airport. You want a cup of coffee and a croissant. So you ask for an americano with milk, and point to the last croissant on the tray. They indicate a vacant table and chair. Wi‑fi, you ask? They nod.

You settle down and fire up your laptop and a couple of minutes later they bring your coffee and your croissant.

And a small bottle of Badoit.

You don't speak Ukrainian, they don't speak English. Any woman would ignore that minor obstacle and find a way to let them know that the bottle of water hadn't been ordered, wasn't wanted, wouldn't be consumed and wouldn't be paid for.

But, as every woman knows, men don't like sending things back. You think, well, it'll be good for me to drink some water. It was probably just a misunderstanding. And they've got nice smiles. So you say diakuiu. Thank you. One of the handful of phrases you bothered to learn on the plane two weeks ago. And you drink the Badoit.

Half an hour later you want another cup of coffee to go with reading the Guardian's online digital edition. You go to the counter and ask for it.

This one comes with a slice of orange cake.

Well, you think, there's at least an hour to go until lunch. The cake will fill the gap, and you don't speak the language, and it was probably a misunderstanding. And, of course, they're smiling. Diakuiu. You eat it. And drink the coffee.

When the bill arrives, it comes to 175 hryvnias. That's about 17 quid, for an order of two cups of coffee and a croissant. Served with a smile.

But I still don't agree with the colleague who, halfway through the tournament, dismissed Ukraine as a "kleptocracy". True, there was the cab driver who demanded 600 hryvnias for the cab ride from central Kiev to the airport. He settled for half that, which is closer to the real fare. But many of his colleagues expected no more than the proper rate, even if they didn't have a meter. There were also plenty of hotels that didn't try to charge a second time for a prepaid room, although a few did. And when it comes to kleptocracies, it will be very interesting to discover the reaction of visitors abroad to London's hospitality during the Olympics. A few of them will probably be going home with lighter wallets and a tale to tell.

Such interesting cultural exchanges will be a thing of the past if Michel Platini's scheme to hold the tournament in just about every country in Europe, simultaneously, comes to pass. Saturday's announcement by the Uefa president that Euro 2020 could be hosted by "12 or 13" cities around the continent can only have been designed to flush out a serious bidder. Or so one hopes, for the sake of his sanity.

Thinking the unthinkable is all very well, but even tournaments shared by two nations lose something of the personality that is created by a single host, although it must be said that Poland and Ukraine did a first-class job and came out of it extremely well – not least because the fears aroused by Panorama's expose of racist behaviour proved unfounded.

Not to say there is no racism in these countries, which might resurface once the carnival has left town. But with the exception of the ugly clash between Polish and Russian supporters in Warsaw on the fifth day of the championships, which had a very specific origin, there was less violence – physical or verbal – at this tournament than you would expect to find on a summer evening in a London shopping mall. England's fans, it is said, went home without a single arrest, and their squad's black players were spared abuse.

The stadiums were handsome, the organisation impeccable. Policemen in eastern Europe don't smile easily but if you were standing in the middle of the pavement on a busy street somewhere in Ukraine, with a suitcase in one hand, a map in the other and a lost look on your face when confronted by street signs in Cyrillic script, a local would always come up and take the trouble to send you in the right direction.

And as history lessons go, the fascination was endless, from the Warsaw Ghetto to Kiev's Babi Yar, from the MiG‑19 mounted at the gates of Donetsk's Sergei Prokofiev airport to the sweet music accompanying an Eastern Orthodox wedding in Lviv. And, unforgettably, Kharkiv's gigantic statue of Lenin, his outstretched arm now pointing not to a glorious socialist future but directly at the city's fan zone and, as Jean-Luc Godard so memorably put it, the children of Marx and Coca-Cola.

Where Uefa needs to take action is over ticket pricing. Whatever Platini may claim, there were thousands of empty seats in Donetsk for a semi-final between Spain and Portugal that would have sold out the Bernabéu or the Estádio da Luz – and probably Wembley and the Stade de France – several times over. The tickets should have been made available to local fans at a cost that bore some relationship to the prices the citizens of this coal and steel town pay to watch FC Shakhtar in a Champions League match. We might also remember that back in 1996 there were acres of empty seats at some of the group matches staged at England's best grounds. This time, quite clearly, the organisers overestimated the number of comparatively rich western European fans willing to make the trip at a time of economic uncertainty.

In football terms, this was a much more satisfying tournament than the last World Cup, not least because Holland didn't stick around to ruin the final, and only one of the 16 teams – who needn't be identified – failed to produce any memorable football at all. It was also competitive from the start, exposing the error inherent in Platini's expansion to 24 teams from 2016.

The officials were hardly mentioned, which was good, although Cuneyt Cekir of Turkey gave a nervous performance in the Portugal-Spain semi-final. With the exception of the shot by Ukraine's Marko Devic which John Terry cleared from behind the line, and which, had it been given, would have been contested on the grounds of an earlier offside, there were few outrageous injustices.

One Andriy, Ukraine's Shevchenko, briefly evoked memories of better days while another, Arshavin (spelt the Russian way), rediscovered some of the form that persuaded Arsène Wenger to buy him after Euro 2008. Lukas Podolski of Germany, Joachim Löw's most puzzling selection, did nothing to suggest that Wenger's latest investment (£11m) will pay off, and Cristiano Ronaldo simply could not win every one of Portugal's matches single‑handed. Bert van Marwijk took the walk after three successive defeats for Holland in the group stage, and Laurent Blanc accepted the price for becoming the latest French manager to fail to discover a new Zidane. And the two best goalkeepers most of us have ever seen shook hands and tossed a coin before the final.

This was also the tournament in which some of England's players discovered that they can, after all, leave their gilded cage and walk among the common people without coming to harm. Let's hope that lesson sticks. Read More

هل تريد وضع المحتوى السابق فى موقعك او مدونتك مجانا؟؟
انسخ الكود التالى و ضعه فى موقعك او مدونتك.

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