On the first anniversary of his UEFA Presidency, Aleksander Čeferin shares his thoughts on some of the most significant accomplishments of his opening year at the helm of European football's governing body and looks forward to the challenges ahead.
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Q: How would you describe your first year in office?
A: You know I honestly can't believe that a year has already passed! It was so intense, with so much work and so many trips … I have to say that it was a very rewarding year and I am really pleased with what this organisation has accomplished in the last 12 months. From governance reforms, to improvement of our relationship with key stakeholders, to structural changes at UEFA, a lot was done.
Q: What was the highlight for you?
A: It is difficult to pick one highlight, but what has been really important to me has been the continuous support I have received from our member associations. They have stood by my side to assist us in the changes we wanted, and have implemented. They really showed trust in me and my programme and for that I am grateful.
Q: What achievement are you most proud of so far?
A: To have strengthened the relationships with key stakeholders in the game and get the football family united and working together for the greater good of football. I am also very pleased at the good governance reforms that have been introduced and which make UEFA a stronger and more transparent organisation.
Q: What was the most challenging moment over the last 12 months?
A: I would have to say it was the UEFA Europa League final in Stockholm, which was played just after the horrendous Manchester attacks. It was very difficult for everyone to organise and play a football match at such a time. Our thoughts and those of the players were with the victims and their relatives, but in the end everyone agreed it was our common duty to show the world that we would not surrender.
Q: What surprised you the most at UEFA and in your new position?
A: The dedication and motivation of our employees. They really work hard and with passion for the good of football. They certainly deserve to be complimented for this.
Q: In your manifesto you spoke about achieving the perfect balance. Is this easier or harder than you thought it would be?
A: I never thought this would be easy. However, nothing of significance ever is. I believe it is necessary to fight for this perfect balance and I use this motto on a day-to-day basis as I aim to make important decisions for the promotion, protection and development of football in Europe.
Q: How much has this new position changed your life and in what way?
A: I believe I have always been a hard worker, but I am now spending much more time in meetings, on planes or sleeping in hotels [laughs] than ever before. More seriously, it is an incredible and unique experience and I am really pleased that I can play a bigger role in the development and promotion of the sport I love.
Q: What was the best match you attended or watched last season?
A: My heart would balance between the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff and the Women's EURO final in the Netherlands. Both were spectacular and played in a tremendous atmosphere, with attacking football and excitement. Those are the two matches that come to mind.
Q: And speaking of the Women's Euro, what were our feelings about the tournament that took place in the Netherlands?
A: It was fantastic. The stadiums were full, the players were really talented and the passion was clearly palpable around the whole country. Records were broken across the board on TV audiences around Europe and that was amazing. Women's football has a bright future, I am sure.
Q: UEFA has just launched a new respect campaign. What do you hope #EqualGame accomplishes?
A: I hope it will send a message that football is for everyone. No matter who you are, where you are from, or what your ability is – you have a right to enjoy this great game.
Q: And what about your second year, how much have you thought about it? What is the priority?
A: I always have to think of what is ahead, it's part of the job. There are many goals that we have as an organisation for the upcoming year. For example, we need to identify ways of tackling the issue of competitive balance and further strengthen financial fair play. These are crucial for the sustainability of our sport and for making sure it stays open to everyone. Increasing participation in youth and women football will also be one of our key long-term aims.