England swaps isolation for central base at Euros
After complaining about boredom at their isolated World Cup base in South Africa two years ago, England arrived Wednesday for the European Championship and will stay next to one of the continent's largest medieval squares.
Players trying to sleep after being drained by training or matches will have to contend with the noise from dozens of bars and restaurants in Krakow, as well as an hourly bugle call.
''During the night, Krakow is a noisy city,'' Deputy Mayor Magdalena Sroka told The Associated Press. ''For sure it's not a peaceful and quiet and empty city. This is a city full of energy and full of life.''
It is far removed from the remote base in Rustenburg at the 2010 World Cup, where England was far from the nearest town center with little outlet for players to enjoy their down time.
This time, the English Football Association is creating a more relaxed environment for the players, who are encouraged to be ''good tourists'' by not being cut off in a hotel.
''You can never replicate the home environment but, in terms of being free to go for a coffee or to the shops, we should embrace it, even though it has never been done before,'' England goalkeeper Joe Hart said. ''We're looking forward to staying in a central location and getting out and about to embrace the local culture.''
In a narrow side street off the main square, hundreds of England fans chanted - mainly at the rival Irish fans in town - as the team bus brought the 23 players to their hotel on Wednesday.
England coach Roy Hodgson has issued his squad with a code of conduct and warned them not to imitate their rugby counterparts' drunken off-field antics at last year's World Cup in New Zealand, where warnings against overindulgence went unheeded as the players' conduct on nights out left the team in turmoil.
The footballers' biggest problem could be being swarmed by fans the moment they leave their hotel.
''The players can only have problems with the girl fans, I believe,'' Sroka said in an interview in her Krakow office. ''For sure, they are handsome. For sure, a lot of girls will like (to) watch them and look out for them at the city at the main market square ... I am sure no one will be like very aggressive - just to touch (the players) and have an autograph.''
Two other teams are based in Krakow for Euro 2012. But the Netherlands have opted for a hotel by the river, about 15 minutes by foot from the main square, while Italy is in the outskirts of the former Polish capital.
By booking early, the Italians and Dutch secured their first-choice hotels and training bases - unlike England.
''They made a decision that they'd like to stay in Krakow - that was a little bit too late because the Dutch reserved the Wisla Stadium and the Italians the Cracovia Stadium,'' Sroka said.
England's Group D rivals also avoided staying in bustling centers at the tournament, which is being staged in Poland and Ukraine.
Ukraine has opted for the quietness of pine forests, staying at Dynamo Kiev's home base in the small village of Chapayevka. Sweden is also staying around Kiev in a secluded luxury resort, while France is at Shakhtar Donetsk's remote training complex in Kirsha.
How different it will be for England.
The hotel windows will have to stay firmly shut to avoid the noise of the bars and a bugle which is played on the hour - every hour - from St. Mary's Church.
''Of course we will play (it) during the whole Euro tournament as well as usual - it's through the night also - it is 24/7,'' Sroka said. ''If you close the window you can't hear anything from outside. This is their way of choice if you want contact with the outside world.''
Next door to the England hotel - in the same building - is Cafe Zacmienie, which stays open until the early hours of the morning blasting out music.
And while the players would be welcomed, manager Kama Broda isn't always so pleased to see English people in the bar, complaining that they tend to be ''more aggressive and more drunk'' than other tourists.
''Other guests from Poland and older people hate this,'' Broda said. ''It's good to be a little cultured ... I think we'll have problems with fans because I can't sell a beer to those who will be very drunk.''
England opted for isolation in South Africa to avoid what defender Rio Ferdinand called ''a circus'' at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The players' wives and girlfriends - the so-called WAGs - dominated the headlines with their trips into the spa town of Baden-Baden, where the team was also based.
A hotel in Krakow has been earmarked for the WAGs, but the FA insists they must not overshadow the team again.
''Between 2002 and 2007, everyone got carried away with everything in life,'' said former England defender Gary Neville, who is now one of Hodgson's coaches. ''It is a different world now and those mistakes won't happen again.''