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Platini: Euro 2012 build up 'a complicated adventure'

By Chris Murphy, CNN
December 9, 2011 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • UEFA president Michel Platini calls the preparations for Euro 2012 a complicated adventure
  • Platini tells CNN he is sure hosts Poland and Ukraine will be ready to welcome thousands of fans
  • The draw for Euro 2012 will be held in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Friday
  • Platini says UEFA will have a policy of zero tolerance towards racism during the competition

(CNN) -- UEFA president Michel Platini admits the build up to the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine has been a "complicated adventure" but predicted a successful soccer tournament when the action kicks off in June.

Speaking ahead of Friday's draw in Kiev, the head of European football's governing body told CNN he had considered stripping Ukraine of the competition before a change in government galvanized momentum and proved they could deliver.

Platini admits both host countries will not be 100% ready by the time thousands of fans flock to the first major football tournament to be held in Eastern Europe, as the pair strive to complete their transport and accommodation infrastructure.

But he said it was important to take the showpiece event to different countries around the continent given its ability to change the life of people in those nations.

Explainer: Are Poland and Ukraine ready to host festival of football?

"I hope it will be a success," Platini told CNN. "It's been a complicated adventure, but at the end a nice adventure. Ukraine and Poland have done a lot of work and I am sure it will be a very nice competition."

When asked if he had considered taking the tournament away from either country he replied: "At the beginning yes, but not for Poland because it had better economic conditions than Ukraine.

"We didn't feel the strong support of the government because there were some political problems and we thought perhaps to change (hosts).

When you bring (the Euros) to Poland and Ukraine you change the life for the people
Michel Platini, UEFA president

"But it was my job to come back and say 'Are you ready to organize this competition?' At the end they gave us a guarantee, the government changed, and the new president and his team they made a big effort to build stadiums, roads and airports.

"Now the success is very nice. It will not be 100% very nice but it will be 95 or 96%. I'm very confident because the stadiums will be built, the games will be good and I'm sure the fans will be happy to feel a beautiful atmosphere in Poland and Ukraine."

Platini, who won Euro '84 as captain of France, said UEFA's logistical expertise will be invaluable for both countries in the next six months as they strive to secure the infrastructure required for such a vast influx of supporters.

He acknowledged that taking tournaments of this magnitude to new territories presented a risk but underlined that the economic and social benefits on offer for debutant hosts justified his policy.

Klitschko: Euro 2012 can change Ukraine

"When you bring (Euro 2012) to Poland and Ukraine you change the life for the people," he added. "You don't change only the life for one month of football, you change the life for the people because there is a big boost for the country.

"There is a big jump in the future because when you change the communications, the roads, the airports, the hospitals, when you do so much work to receive the world, that is good for the population."

Mr Blatter, to be clear, is not a racist, but he was clumsy on this fact. When a big delgate from FIFA speaks about racism he has to be clear
Michel Platini, UEFA president

Another dominating factor in the build up to Euro 2012 has been the issue of racism.

Several black players have told CNN they've been racially abused by fans at matches in Eastern Europe and expressed their fears that the competition could be blighted by chants from the stands.

Racism in the game has been brought into sharp focus after FIFA president Sepp Blatter told CNN that there was no problem with on-field racism between players and that any abuse during a match could be settled with a handshake.

Platini said: "I think that Mr Blatter was really clumsy about that. Mr Blatter, to be clear, is not a racist, but he was clumsy on this fact.

"When a big delegate from FIFA speaks about racism he has to be clear on that. It is not a question of shaking hands, you have to have zero tolerance and fight against that."

CNN blog: Ukraine primed for final Euro 2012 push

Zero tolerance is Platini's mantra for any abuse that occurs during Euro 2012, whether on the field or off it.

"I think there is more nationalism in many countries in the west, in the center, in the east. We do all that we can do to fight that. When you touch on the fans it's a bit more complicated -- it is a long story.

"We will be very tough against everybody. We have many powers to fight against racism. We will do our job. We said to the referee you can stop the game if there is racism. That, I think, is a good thing."

I'm very confident because the stadiums will be built, the games will be good and I'm sure the fans will be happy to feel a beautiful atmosphere
Michel Platini, UEFA president

Platini predicted the quality of football on show during Euro 2012 would be excellent, given that three European teams dominated the World Cup -- Spain, Netherlands and Germany finishing first, second and third respectively.

He said: "It means the European competition is very, very tough. It will begin tough and finish tough."

Spain are aiming for their third straight tournament victory after winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup but although Platini accepted they play different football to the other nations, he said they could be beaten.

The Frenchman also defended the decision to expand the competition from 16 teams to 24 teams when the 2014 tournament is held in France. Many critics have said the quality of football will be diluted by virtue of more countries becoming involved.

"I think it is an excellent move because we have the quality for 24 good teams in the Euro," he said.

"When you decide to change the format you have to not only think about the number of teams because of the quality of the football but also think about the infrastructure and the investment of all the (host) cities.

"The round of 16 will be eight beautiful games more. You will not only have 32 good games you will have 52 good games. It's good for you, good for me, good for the lovers of football."

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