A burst of laughter fills the office of the tournament organisation. It is the final day of the 2018 IFCPF European Championship and the organisers are in a good mood. The CP football Euros has been a great success. Tournament manager Marcel Geestman praises the commitment of Lidy Backers, Bianca van de Haar, Bram van der Sluij, Nikita de Haan and all the others in his 25-strong team who worked very hard to make it all happen.
“This may sound a bit like cliché, but this event would not have been possible without their help and those of all other people involved. They have been at work or on standby from early in the morning until late at night and they never complained about working an extra hour."
The idea of organising the CP Euros in the Netherlands first came up at the Copacabana during the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Given that CP football won't be part of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, it was seen as very important to give it more publicity, says Geestman. And, from a Dutch perspective, what could be better than organising these European Championships in the Netherlands? The plan was embraced by the KNVB and the final go-ahead came a year later. Since then, a lot of hard work has been done behind the scenes to turn the tournament into a success.
It’s all paid off, says the tournament director. "Of course, there are always some little things that go wrong when you organise such an event," he adds. For example, the livestream used ball tracking and occasionally got confused by the ball boys on the sides of the pitch. The system couldn’t quite decide which ball to follow with so many balls around. However, this technical glitch didn’t spoil the fun. "These have been very good weeks in terms of making CP football and other adaptations of association football more visible.”
As England came back against Germany in the second half to clinch fifth place, the Netherlands and Ireland squads entered the dressing rooms for their third place play-off. “Too cautious, not enough guts”, had been the critical comment of Netherlands national coach Max Raeven after the first encounter between the two nations in the tournament. It was clear that a different attitude was needed in the battle for bronze. And the Netherlands certainly tried, playing energetically and creating a number of scoring opportunities, but after the break, they once again had to bow to the Irish: 2-1.
Once Ireland had ended their celebrations, it was time for the final between the two top favourites: Ukraine - Russia. Russia took the lead twice, but six-man Ukraine equalised in no time on both occasions. With another man down less than fifteen minutes before the final whistle, Ukraine’s chances suffered another setback. However, the curtain didn’t fall until well into injury time when Russia scored the winner from the penalty spot to win the European Championships. "What a great tournament this has been", Geestman said with satisfaction. And no one would argue with that.