Recovering war torn countries need something to focus on and these two have their eye on the third biggest sporting prize.

Hajduk Split's Poljud stadium
To say that Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have had their share of problems in the past decade with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia would be a bit of an understatement. However, they are trying to build relationships among the newly formed countries and the joint bid to host EURO2008 is a welcome development. With a passion for football, beautiful scenery, and a genuine will to embrace the European ideal of fellowship, the joint bid's defining slogan - "
United in football - united in Europe" - celebrates the game's ability to cross borders.

This joint bid is hoping that using eleven cities - five in Croatia and six in Bosnia-Herzegovina - (with major refurbishments planned) will be enough to swing the votes their way for EURO2008. The Maksimir stadium in Zagreb looks the most likely venue for the final with proposals to raise the capacity of the home of NK Dinamo Zagreb from 45,000 to 60,000. They also have plans to improve HNK Hajduk Split's Poljud stadium, and with the Kosevo Olympic stadium in Sarajevo having staged the 1984 Winter Olympics, they think they have plenty of venues already nearly meeting the required criteria. Added to that NK Osijeks's Gradski vrt, NK Varteks's home stadium and HNK Rijeka's Kantrida are already fine grounds but could do with some modernisation. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bijeli Brijeg stadium in Mostar, the City stadium in Banja Luka, Zenica's Bilino Polje stadium, Tuzla's Tuanj stadium and the Pod boricima stadium in Bihac are lall lined up for the opportunity to host major European games.

If these two countries win the vote for EURO2008, it would provide the perfect opportunity to prove that they have overcome the ravages of war and are ready to take their place at the heart of the European Union. The two countries share a long border, which would reduce road and rail problems while their airports are located within a few kilometres of all of the planned host stadiums. With so much infrastructure destroyed during the war, hosting the tournament would provide the momentum for a massive rebuilding programme in both countries. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia are confident that, by 2008, they would be well-equipped to invite millions of supporters to come and share in the celebration of football.

Bijeli Brijeg stadium in Mostar
Much of the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia bid is linked to need to embrace co-operation, even between countries which have recently been ravaged by civil war. They have both made solemn pledges to host an event which will open up their corner of Europe to the world. The hosting of EURO2008 would allow them to demonstrate that, despite being in transition, football could be the catalyst that allows economic, social and infrastructure development.

As usual, the Bosnia-Herzegovnian and Croatian sports stars across the world have been wheeled out to support the bid. Names such as former Wimbledon men's tennis champion Goran Ivanievic, Olympic weightlifting gold-medallist Nikolaj Pealov, Winter Olympic skiing gold-medallist Janica Kostelic may not be household names here. However, we should remember the Croatian national side which were third at the 1998 World Cup finals.

We end this look at the bid with Croatian Football Association (HNS) president Vlatko Markovic who has something to say: "
We did everything in our power to represent our joint bid in the best light. Our opponents are very strong, but we are not surrendering in advance. The joint candidature has already contributed a lot to the development of football in this region".


Editorial Team

Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba.net)
Vanderhogg (vanderhogg@scottishfitba.net)

Special correspondents
Al McIntosh (Al@scottishfitba.net)

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