Still craving Euro 2012? Get ready for Euro 2013
As Spain’s victorious Euro 2012 male side returned to Madrid with the Henri Delaunay trophy, football administrators in Sweden were already working to make Euro 2013 for women a similar success.
“Euro 2013 is the second-biggest event UEFA are planning next year, after the Champions League final for men,” former Sweden international Viktoria Svensson told Reuters in an interview.
Having hung up her boots in 2009, former forward Svensson is now responsible for public relations and team service at the upcoming championship, which will kick off in Sweden on July 10 next year.
With Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine having been followed by millions of fans in stadiums and on television, Svensson is aware of the challenges faced by the women’s game.
“That Sweden can organise a tournament, that’s no problem. Our biggest challenge is to fill the stadiums. UEFA set pretty high goals – they compare with the Women’s World Cup in Germany, and that is pretty tough,” she said.
“German people are great at going to sporting events, if it’s biathlon or cross-country skiing or football, it’s packed all the time.”
Svensson says that the event will be aimed primarily at families and that it will retain much of what made the men’s event so successful.
“The tickets won’t be hugely expensive, but they won’t be free either. It’s very much aimed at families. The tickets must have a value – we can’t just give them away because then it’s easier to say: ‘Oh, the weather’s good or I’ve been invited to a party, so I won’t bother going to the game’.”
Svensson and her Swedish colleagues dream of breaking the attendance record for a women’s Euro final by selling out the newly-built Friends Arena in Stockholm on July 28.
“We want to break the record for the final, which is 29,000 or so. In our new stadium we can hold 50,000 and we can always block off parts of it, but there’s a dream that if Sweden play the final we could open up everything. That’s our big challenge.”
As with Poland and Ukraine, fan zones will be set up in each host city, where football lovers can watch the games live on giant screens.
“They will be there during the whole tournament,” Svensson added.
As a player, Svensson was capped 166 times for her country, scoring 68 goals and taking part in 10 major international championships. Unsurprisingly, she has little time for those who denigrate the women’s game.
“You always hear that the goalkeepers aren’t as good, or that we should have smaller goals, smaller pitches, smaller balls. But if you look at the football, the girls are just as good technically and tactically (as men),” she said.
“Obviously there’s a difference in physique and speed, and that’s not all that strange, we’re built differently. But I find that when male friends come to a women’s game for the first time, they think it’s fantastic, great football and fun to be there.
“And what we don’t have is hooligans, which is an advantage. You can go with your children and no-one is shouting swear words. It should be a family party.”
Svensson tips Sweden, Germany and England as the three to watch next summer.
“Lotta Schelin (of Sweden) is one of the world’s best forwards, she is in good form and she’s going to mean everything to Sweden,” she said.
“But Germany are very strong, the collective is excellent, and England have a lot of good players.”
With none of those three nations making it to the final of Euro 2012, perhaps their fans will have a little more to cheer about in Sweden next July.