Fans from throughout Europe have been grateful for the help given to them by the Fans' Embassies at UEFA EURO 2012 – including a dedicated group of volunteers in Kyiv.
The Fans' Embassies in operation in each of the eight host cities during the UEFA EURO 2012 final tournament have made life much easier for the thousands of fans who have travelled to Poland and Ukraine.
The Fans' Embassies are implemented by the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) network. They are operating as part of UEFA's Respect campaign at the tournament under the slogan 'Respect Fan Culture – Fan Embassies'. The aim is to promote a positive and peaceful fan culture, thereby contributing to a festive atmosphere at UEFA EURO 2012.
"We are constantly in contact with fans. This helps to resolve any issues that appear during the tournament quickly and effectively," said Austrian Gabriele Rechberger, who is responsible for the Kyiv Fan Embassy. "Foreign fans come in a variety of situations. They can lose their passport, do not know how to get a particular place, and so on. Our goal is to help them.
"The project is overseen by experienced people, many of whom worked at the previous EURO in Austria and Switzerland. There are even those who did similar things at the EURO in Portugal in 2004."
Gabriele was impressed by how the project has attracted the attention of the local population, and admitted she did not want the tournament to end. "Kyivans regularly come to us and ask whether we need some help. They are interested in details of the project, so we tell them about it. It will be sad to leave Ukraine, which we have liked very much."
A considerable number of people wanted to take part in the project, and the volunteers lucky enough to qualify do not hide their enthusiasm. "When I heard that volunteers were needed in Kyiv's Fans' Embassy, I had a burning desire to join such a significant event in the history of Ukraine," said student Tatiana. "We had a lot of training, where we were told in detail how to behave in different situations to maximise support for foreign fans."
Tatiana believes that volunteer experience in the Fans' Embassy will help her in the future. "There is no doubt that this practice will benefit all participants in the project," she said. “While being here, we communicate with people from different countries, learn something new, practice languages and become more experienced. If I had such an opportunity, I would gladly take part in a similar event again."
Another volunteer, Vladyslav, also has no regrets at joining the project's ranks. "I lived in Sweden and Canada for a long time, so I know Swedish and English perfectly, said Vladyslav, who now lives in Kyiv. "The atmosphere here is extremely positive. Foreign fans have a good impression of Ukraine."
Ukraine tournament director Markiyan Lubkivskyi praised the work of the Fans' Embassies: "Every day we are in contact with representatives of Fans' Embassies, so we know what their everyday life is. The Ukrainians' attitude towards foreign supporters is unbelievable – I'm really happy how Ukrainians have shown themselves to be open to the world."