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Croatia and Hungary seek boost, in different areas, through Euro 2012

Croatia and Hungary hope for a big boost if they elected hosts of the European football championships in 2012, but in different areas.

Hungary needs the event badly to counter the steady decline of football while Croatia wants to strengthen national pride and tourism in the country founded 15 years ago. „We would rather host the Euro tournament than win the World Cup. It is much better for our country in the long run,” said Croatian football federation president Vlatko Markovic. Croatia's infrastructure is ready with 900,000 hotel beds and recently finished modern highways and airports could also work in their favor. The government has pledged to financially guarantee the modernization of the proposed stadiums in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek. It expects the full tournament costs of €750 million ($1 billion) to be returned by visiting fans, additional tourists as well as television and sponsor income. For football-mad Croatia, which placed third at the 1998 World Cup, the event will be the realization of a dream.

Hungary, for their part, are painting a picture of a national game in need of a helping hand, with their bid slogan „Give us a chance” underlining this. „For a long time now European football has split into two camps: top dogs and also-rans. If no helping hand takes care of those lagging behind, the distance between those ahead and those behind is bound to grow,” said Tamás Gyárfás, chairman of the Hungarian bidding committee. While in the heady days of Ferenc Puskás in the 1950s Hungary was considered the best national team in the world, the game is now in crisis. The national team has failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, club games draw only a few thousand fans, many of the stadiums are crumbling into disrepair and their most illustrious club, Ferencváros, is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. However, Hungary must spend big - an estimated €648 million ($70 million) to bring its infrastructure and the stadiums up to scratch. The arenas in Budapest, Győr and Székesfehérvár are to be upgraded and a new one to be built in Debrecen for the tournament. (earthtimes.org)