WARSAW — The people of Gniewino welcomed European football champions Spain, to their sleepy town in northern Poland on Tuesday with a ceremony featuring a brass band, pom-pom waving girls and children dressed in traditional costume.
On a chilly evening with the sun setting, the team bus rolled up at around 8:30pm local time with around 500 excited soccer fans, many dressed in the red and yellow of Spain and some with painted faces, lining the road.
Spain’s towering striker Fernando Llorente was presented with a basket of bread, drawing laughter and applause from his fellow players, who were sporting dark suits, white shirts and dark blue ties.
“The Spanish team is amazing,” Tomek Delgardt, a 26-year-old local bank employee, said.
Delgardt added that he was a fan of Arsenal and said the former captain of the English Premier League club, Cesc Fabregas, was his favourite Spanish player.
Situated about 10km from the Baltic coast in thickly wooded, hilly countryside dotted with lakes, Gniewino is about an hour’s drive from Gdansk, the port city where Spain play their Group C matches against Italy, Ireland and Croatia.
It boasts a “sports hotel” with facilities good enough to win approval from Uefa for use at Euro 2012 and Spain will train there against a backdrop of a crop of giant wind turbines slicing through the air near their training pitch.
When not tapping away on their laptops, iPads or smart phones or playing their customary card games, players will also have the use of a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a sauna complex, massage facilities and two fitness rooms.
Spain’s set-up in Gniewino is similar to the one in Potchefstroom, South Africa, the leafy university town where they were based for their triumphant World Cup campaign in 2010.