Fans' Embassies in every host city have been catering for the needs of supporters at UEFA EURO 2012, with volunteers providing essential information for visitors to Poland and Ukraine.
Located in convenient central positions in each host city, the embassies are run under the principle "by fans, for fans" and Sara, one of the volunteers in the Warsaw Fans' Embassy, has been kept busy. "Every day we get about a hundred fans visiting the embassy, and even more on matchdays," she told UEFA.com. "We also have to be on the phone a lot, since there is a 24-hour helpline in operation.
"Fans turn to us for lots of different things," she added. "They ask us where are the best places to go and have fun, day and night, here in Warsaw – we usually direct them to the Old Town and Krakowskie Przedmieście. They also ask for public transport information, and come to us if they lose documents. We also get lots of questions about purchasing match tickets, but we cannot help with that."
Fans' Embassies, implemented by the Football Supporters Europe (FSE) network, are operating as part of UEFA's Respect campaign at the tournament under the slogan 'Respect Fan Culture – Fan Embassies'. They have the purpose of promoting a positive and peaceful fan culture, contributing to a festive atmosphere at UEFA EURO 2012.
Not related to any commercial organisations, the Fans' Embassies pride themselves on their neutrality in terms of the information they give out, and in Warsaw at least they have been helping supporters from across the world. "There has been a lot of interest in the project," said Marek, another volunteer. "We have not only had fans from Europe, but also from the United States, Mexico and even Venezuela."
With that multinational audience in mind, every embassy has a stock of fan guides, published in six languages, and city maps in up to 15 languages, all available free of charge. "We have got through a lot of work, but there is even more to come," said Sara.
"It's getting more interesting. So far, most of our visitors have been Poles and Russians, but we will probably get people from other countries for the quarter-finals. Our Czech mobile fan embassy will be opening up soon. We are also getting on well with the embassies in other cities too, helping each other in order to best support the fans who need it."
Former Poland coach Andrzej Strejlau is a local ambassador for the project, and has been delighted by the work the volunteers have been doing to assist supporters at street level. "As a coach, I went to two Olympic tournaments and visited two World Cups, so I have a lot of experience of big events," the 72-year-old said.
"I can honestly say that Poland has prepared well for UEFA EURO 2012," he added. "The event is organised by professionals, but that success would be impossible without the help of all these volunteers. They deserve a lot of praise and gratitude."
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