Portugal Awarded Euro 2004 Soccer
AACHEN, Germany (AP) _ Portugal was awarded soccer’s 2004 European Championships on Tuesday, beating out neighboring Spain and a joint Austria-Hungary bid.
This will be the first time the quadrennial championships are held in Portugal. The 2000 tournament will be played in Belgium and The Netherlands.
The decision, following a secret vote, was announced by Lennart Johansson, president of Europe’s governing soccer body. The Portuguese delegation, including soccer great Eusebio, cheered wildly.
``Portugal is a small country but we love football,″ Eusebio said as Portuguese delegation officials popped open bottles of champagne.
Portugal plans to hold the tournament in eight cities: Lisbon, Porto, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Faro/Loule, Guimaraes and Leiria.
``This is the happiest day in my life,″ Portuguese soccer federation president Gilberto Madail said. ``We did everything possible to prove that Portugal was capable and worthy of staging the European Championship.″
Under the Portuguese bid plans, games will be played in eight cities: Lisbon, Porto, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Faro/Loule, Guimaraes and Leiria. Lisbon and Porto will provide two stadiums each.
Five stadiums need extensive renovation and five new ones will be built, according to the Portuguese bid.
``This is a complete surprise,″ Spanish soccer federation president Angel Maria Villar said. ``(The Portuguese) don’t have the better facilities but there were other reasons they won it and one of the reasons is precisely that they don’t have the resources.″
Heinz Palme, chief of the Austria-Hungary bid, said his first reaction was that it was a ``wrong decision.″
``Let’s hope that it will be a good decision for football,″ he said. ``I think they have a lot of stadiums to build for a small nation.″
The biggest soccer event Portugal ever held was the youth World Cup in 1991.