UEFA opened its doors to celebrate its 60th anniversary and it proved a huge success as fans came in numbers to learn about the organisation or mingle with stars in special training sessions.
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UEFA had a party on Saturday to celebrate its 60th birthday – and, on a day when the sun thankfully stayed in full view, the public responded in kind to the European body's invitation to its special Open Day in Nyon.
Some 4,200 visitors of all ages took the opportunity to visit UEFA's premises on the shores of Lake Geneva to learn about the organisation and its many activities, as well as the rich history of the European game and its hall of fame of stars.
In the morning, queues were forming at the welcome tent well before the doors were opened, and visitors were invited to take a special route which led them in sequence to the House of European Football, the Clairière premises and the Bois-Bougy facilities – the three buildings that comprise UEFA's football campus just outside Nyon.
The first part of the tour included a chance to view an array of memorabilia from six decades of European football history – including a special UEFA 60 Years video – and attend information sessions on UEFA's organisation as well as its work on behalf of social responsibility, refereeing and football education. Information stands provided, among other things, explanations, facts and figures about the European competitions, women's football, UEFA's assistance programmes for its member associations, and how UEFA makes use of the funds it generates to foster the well-being of the game.
Videos of memorable moments in European football were on offer together with highlights clips of recent finals, while the display of European competition trophies was a particular hit – especially the UEFA Champions League trophy. Fans queued up in numbers at the Bois-Bougy building to have their photo taken with the most prestigious club trophy that the world's top footballers all want to hold.
On their trip around the campus, many of the visitors expressed surprise as they discovered the vast amount of work that UEFA undertakes as European football's umbrella body – it was certainly an eye-opener for young and old to find out how a pre-tournament opening ceremony is planned, how thousands of volunteers help tournaments and special occasions run smoothly, what it takes to put full-scale media and television production operations into action at a big UEFA match, how the main occasions are marketed, why UEFA gathers comprehensive data at its games, and the reasons behind UEFA's anti-doping and anti-racism campaigns. Children also had the opportunity to meet the mascots from different UEFA European Championships, and marvelled at the signed shirts supplied to UEFA by superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo.
The stars also came to support UEFA on its big day. At the Colovray Stadium, youngsters in particular were delighted to meet French internationals of the recent past, Grégory Coupet and Christian Karembeu, as well as renowned Swiss names Stéphane Chapuisat, Patrick Müller and Pascal Zuberbühler. The celebrities joined young fans in penalty competitions and training exercises on the pitch, and made an excellent contribution to the day's success.
"UEFA is an institution that deserves respect," said Coupet. "The competitions that [UEFA] organises help to make football great. It's superb. The players reach the heights and the supporters are thrilled. It's important to break the ice between supporters and [players], because people think that players are inaccessible, but we are like the fans – we were amateur players once and we admired top players in turn – and as a former professional, it's great to be able to share moments like this with them."
"It's been a magnificent day," added UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino. "Nice weather, and a lot of people have come. And you see that they are all interested in our activities. We perhaps didn't expect to have this amount of interest – not only for the trophies and the stars, but also in the work that we do. People have been curious to know about UEFA's everyday life. It's good to be able to show them what goes on behind the scenes as well, and [the Open Day] will no doubt help serve to strengthen the relationship between UEFA and the public."
"For Nyon, UEFA’s presence here for 20 years now has been a huge boost in terms of the prominence, identity and dynamism of our town," said the mayor of Nyon, Daniel Rossellat. "The municipal authorities are both proud and happy to share an excellent relationship with UEFA’s management and employees."
UEFA is 60 years old this year. The European body was founded in Basel, Switzerland, on 15 June 1954 and is the umbrella football organisation for 54 national football associations across the continent. UEFA is one of six continental confederations of world football's governing body FIFA – and has grown into the cornerstone of the game on this continent, working with and acting on behalf of the associations and other stakeholders to promote football and strengthen its position as the most popular sport in the world. UEFA has also become the guardian of football in Europe, protecting the game's well-being at all levels.