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EURO 2012: The Ukrainian Experience Shared by Resident of Kharkov (or How I Became a Football Fan!)

Editor’s Note:  My friend, Marianna, lives in Kharkov, Ukraine.  She was key in helping me get this blog up and running (and getting it to look the way I wanted it to look).  I’m a soccer fan, and I asked her to write a guest post about her experience with the recent EURO 2012, which I’m honored to feature here as a guest post.

Additional note: I’m very much looking forward to meeting Marianna in real life later this month,  on my trip to Kharkov and Kiev (where I’ll check out the UEFA re-vamped Olympic Stadium myself for the Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert on July 25th).

I hope you enjoy reading Marianna’s post as much as I did.- Jen Pollack Bianco

EURO 2012: The Ukrainian Experience shared by resident of Kharkov (or how I became a football fan!)

Several weeks ago I was not into football at all, I didn’t understand all this excitement around EURO 2012 being held in Ukraine and Poland, upcoming games in my native city Kharkov and all the preparations for championships. Me and football were really not connected, not interested in each other and totally not in love. But, like it often happens in life, the most interesting, breathtaking and unforgettable moments happen when you least expect. This is exactly what happened to me during EURO 2012 championships.

Kharkov was about to hold three games during EURO. Like mentioned above, I was not interested in football at all and didn’t plan to visit any EURO games. But by a coincident, I had a free ticket for the game Holland-Germany and decided to visit it to get some EURO experience and to check newly renovated stadium, Kharkov Metalist. And it was love at a first sight… the moment I entered the stadium, saw all those happy fans with smiley colored faces, felt the energy of all those people gathered together to support their teams, all this positive attitude and great energy, I understood that I like it, I really like it! I want more of it! More football games to attend, teams to support, fans to cry, clap hands, laugh and dance together with.

I was lucky to attend four games, among them Holland vs Germany, and Holland vs Portugal, in Kharkov, Spain vs England in Donetsk and finally final game Spain vs Italy at Kyiv. And I was even more lucky to support Holland and Spain teams in fan sectors with all the fans, in the very heart of all football madness and energy. Great and unforgettable moments I am grateful for!

Netherlands vs. Germany. Metalist Stadium, Kharkov. June 13, 2012.

Netherlands vs. Germany.  Metalist Stadium, Kharkov. June 13, 2012.

Netherlands vs. Portugal. Metalist Stadium, Kharkov. June 17, 2012.

Netherlands vs. Portugal.  Metalist Stadium, Kharkov. June 17, 2012.

EURO 2012 Final. Italy vs. Spain. Olympic Stadium, Kiev. July 1, 2012.

EURO 2012 Final. Italy vs. Spain.  Olympic Stadium, Kiev. July 1, 2012.

Kharkov Orange Dutch EURO experience

My native city Kharkov was very lucky to host all three games of Holland team and dearest Holland fans.  During EURO 2012 all Kharkov residents fell in love with Holland fans and Holland fans responded the same.  Great fan zone for all football fans was organized in the heart of Kharkov on Svobody square. Every day lots of city guests, who arrived to Kharkov from Holland, Denmark and Germany to support their teams, gathered together on the fan zone as well as Kharkov residents who really enjoyed communication with foreigners. As Kharkov is not a touristic city, thanks to EURO many foreigners came to Kharkov and, which is a pleasure to admit, really liked the city and Kharkov people. Holland fans liked Kharkov city and Kharkov people, their hospitality, kindness and openness so much that after EURO even purchased numerous big boards around the city saying “Thank you, Kharkov! Holland”, which is as much adorable as Dutch people. Also Holland fans posted an official thank you letter on the site saying “But most of our thanks goes to the Kharkov people. Wonderful people! We have met so many very nice people in all those years, but we did not know what to expect in Kharkov. Well, we got a warm bath. A warm bath filled with memories of helpful, joyful, loving, caring, understanding, amazing, beautiful and fantastic people. We are so happy we could bring another kind of joy into their lives, something they did not knew and hopefully something they will continue enjoying, the way they did the last few weeks. Thank you so much, Kharkov people… thank you all the people from Kharkov, for your many presents, for your enthusiasm, for loving us that much, for everything. We love you!”

We here in Kharkov are very grateful that EURO was held in Ukraine, that Kharkov was one of the cities to host games and welcome fans, that Holland team was playing in Kharkov and adorable Dutch fans brought so many joy, happiness and orange warmth to our city and our hearts. We are grateful that thanks to EURO lots of people have got some Ukrainian and Kharkov experience and will spread their positive feedback about our country and the city to their friends in other countries.


Kharkov Orange Dutch EURO experience

Fans from Holland

Ukrainian fans

We together with Dutch fans on the Metalist Stadium at Kharkov

EURO Final Spain vs. Italy. Vamanos España!

My friends and I supported Spain team from the very beginning. We came to Donetsk from Kharkov by car to watch Spain vs. England game on Donbass Arena stadium. We parked the car near Donetsk airport, because it was very convenient to get from the airport by shuttle bus to the stadium and the same way back after the game. And we were really lucky to see all the Spain football stars after the game near the airport just in several meters… Fernando Torres, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva and others. One of the best footballers ever, winners of EURO 2012 and not only!

At the airport after the game Spain vs. France which took place at Donbass Arena, Donetsk.

At the airport after the game Spain vs. France which took place at Donbass Arena, Donetsk.

We didn’t plan to go to the final, but then the decision was made really quickly. This was a chance not to be missed, must visit event, fantastic game of the best teams to be seen. And again luck was our friend, by a chance we bought tickets to EURO final on the game date in the Kyiv fan zone directly from Spain fans to… wait for it… Spain fan sector! EURO final, fan sector of the team you support, you are surrounded by smiling fans in red T-shirts and freaky clothes, Spanish passion and energy… and Spain scores! Spain scores again! And again! And again! That evening we saw so many happiness, smiles, laugh and positive energy which worth a lot. Spanish fan sector of EURO 2012 was concentration of happiness and joy that evening and we were lucky to be there and experience all of this.

EURO 2012 Final Firework

EURO 2012 Final Firework

P.S. All photos for this post were taken with iPhone 4s, which was my best camera during all EURO 2012, convenient to have it with me all the time and to take lots of memorable shots and videos. Special thanks to Jen for her inspiration to write this post and for showing how mobile photography can be cool. Always remember Jen’s saying “the best camera is the one that is with you, and most of the time that is my iPhone”.