Hoping England Qualify, Wherever It Takes Them

Philip Cornwall is enjoying his European Championship odyssey and is pleasantly surprised at Donetsk's warm welcome. He's hoping England qualify, wherever it takes them...

Last Updated: 19/06/12 at 16:20 Post Comment

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First impressions are not always reliable. Donetsk has suffered from whatever comes before - pre-impressions. The reality is a pleasant surprise.

However industrial it may be it is, genuinely, green. Not of the Beijing Olympics kind, where they painted the grass green. But in the sense that what are admittedly nondescript wide boulevards are tree-lined, the parks are plentiful, the water well maintained and safe enough for the locals to swim in and fish in.

I am in an eastern bloc Milton Keynes; though it's the Don here, not the Dons.

Another assumption was that this would be a less welcoming city than Kiev. The capital has been fantastic to be in, overflowing with goodwill to all-comers, but at times it can seem studded with grey in the shape of the high-capped police and those with what seems to be "Militar" on their uniforms; even on my 25-minute dawn walk to the station this morning, there they were, emerging from the not-yet-officially-open metro as I went past. Donetsk seems much less officious. I am sure the police are there but they are in the background.

As an example, the ticket collection point in Kiev on matchday was ringed with fencing and the one entry point to the cordon was manned by a group of high-hats to whom you had to show some UEFA paperwork 100 yards from the door, as if you were going through airport security. Here you simply stroll up to a queue.

Two immediate issues remain: transport and geography. We are on the road or rail to nowhere and should England come second in their group and need to be back here on Saturday then there will be an almighty scramble for the few remaining rooms and to find a train or plane here from somewhere. I don't imagine winter would be as much fun either.

Right now, though, if you could parachute Donetsk to somewhere in the middle of the triangle formed by Ukraine's other three hosts then I'd feel delighted with qualification wherever it took us.

Philip Cornwall

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