Fans show their true colors for Euro 2012
The 2012 UEFA Euro Cup may have opened in Poland’s capital of Warsaw, but Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and one of the eight host cities, also has had its fair share of fanfare to welcome the event.
Or perhaps “fan fair” would be a better description. The city has barred cars from entering the main streets of Khreschatyk, Instytutska and Taras Schevchenko Boulevard starting on May 28 to create the official UEFA Euro 2012 Fanzone. The zone has three big screens, cafes, souvenir shops and other soccer fan-related activities to keep everybody happy.
On the first day of the regional championship on June 8, groups of people from a beer brand donned traditional clothes of the 16 participating nations to roam the streets and invite fans to take photos with them. Fans with dyed hair in the colors of their favorite team’s flag were a common sight, but a father gave new meaning to hair-raising stunts when he walked into the Fanzone with his two sons sporting ball-patterned hair cuts.
Singing and dancing competitions were held on stage and along the streets, challenging fans to show their best moves. In one corner, there was a Passion Meter, a place where fans screamed out their favorite team’s name and measured the voice level (the loudest was declared the winner, and the host country seemed to be a screaming success).
When it came to costumes, the Ukrainians looked for more than steam jerseys but had many options to show their love for their national team. People wore traditional garb or an assortment of outfits in the national colors of blue and yellow; one woman opted for a very stylish blue halter top and yellow maxi skirt.
It they could not show their true colors with their clothes they simply painted their faces with the flag’s colors. A more flexible solution came from businessmen who walked to the zone in their black suits-and-ties and leather briefcases but tied national flags around their necks as show-of-solidarity scarves.
As the opening ceremony rolled on the match between Poland and Greece started, people focused their attention on the big screens and sat down on the road. Seeing a young woman was still standing in the front row, a man tapped her shoulder and politely invited her to sit down. When she pointed to her white trousers, the man became a latter-day Sir Walter Raleigh as he took off his jacket for her to sit on.
Fans watched the game side by side and cheered their teams. When the first goal was scored, the crowd jumped up with a joyous roar, regardless of the team they supported. It was a celebration of fair play, not a blind love for one particular team.
Ukrainians take a deep patriotic pride in the game of soccer. During the German occupation of Kiev in 1942, the Ukrainian team FC Start humiliated the German team Flakelf in a 5-3 victory despite the Nazi advice to let the Aryans win or face serious repercussions. They carried through with their threat; the Ukrainian players were later executed at the Babi Yar ravine. The Hollywood movie Victory, starring Sylvester Stallone, was inspired by the deadly incident.
Despite news about brawls between soccer fans and the politically loaded issue of the jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko that was feared would lead to boycotts of the championship, the matches have gone on as planned. And fans are enjoying their share of the fun and games.