UEFA has been celebrating its 60th birthday in 2014, and in our final article on UEFA's history, we look at the recent past, the present, and a challenging future.
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In March 2011, Michel Platini was re-elected for a second four-year term as UEFA President at the 35th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Paris. Mr Platini called on the football family to nurture football's well-being. "We have a notable duty to think of the next generation – the football that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren," he said. "Let us continue to have the courage to take the necessary decisions to protect football as we love it. We are the guarantors of this football and the guardians of an ideal."
In 2012, the EURO final round was staged in eastern Europe for the first time, and co-hosts Poland and Ukraine provided a UEFA EURO 2012 to remember. In a tournament marked by attacking football, Spain continued their purple patch by winning a second successive EURO to add to their 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph. Future EUROs will feature innovative changes. UEFA EURO 2016, awarded to France in 2010, sees the final-round field increased to 24 – while UEFA EURO 2020 will be a special 'EURO for Europe', staged in 13 cities across the continent to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first EURO final round. From 2018, the UEFA Nations League will bring added status to national team football.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been leading lights on the field. Ronaldo set a new record with 17 goals for Real Madrid CF in a UEFA Champions League season in 2013/14, and FC Barcelona star Messi created the headlines in November 2014 when he became the competition's all-time top scorer on 74 goals.
Messi and Ronaldo won UEFA Champions League titles with their clubs in 2011 and 2014 respectively. Chelsea FC and FC Bayern München tasted glory in 2012 and 2013. The fledgling UEFA Europa League has gradually strengthened its sporting and public appeal. Today's young players now have their own high-profile taste of continental competition with the UEFA Youth League, launched in 2013. Women's football has blossomed, with a magnificent UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden and innovative work to develop the women's game and introduce more women into senior roles.
UEFA is leading countless initiatives during its seventh decade – the fight against racism is gathering perpetual intensity, fighting match-fixing is protecting football's essential soul, financial fair play is bringing vital stability to club football, referees are helped by the extra eyes of two additional assistant referees and the quest for dialogue with football stakeholders has borne fruit, as UEFA interacts with the European authorities, clubs, leagues, players' representatives and the fans. The end of 2014 sees 54 national associations under UEFA's umbrella, and the European body's HatTrick assistance programme is celebrating an immense decade of helping all of them improve their sporting and administrative infrastructures.
It has been a memorable road since 1954. Appropriately, the last word as UEFA ends its 60th year goes to Michel Platini. "The world is changing," the UEFA President said at the Ordinary Congress in March 2014, "and we are privileged witnesses. In our own way, we are helping to write history… A history that, for us, is 60 years old: 60 years of football; 60 years of passion; 60 years of joy, drama and emotion; 60 years of innovation, but also of respect for tradition; 60 years of incredible drama and charming anecdotes; 60 years of stories great and small; and 60 years of UEFA developing and establishing its authority as a role model in the organisation of football in Europe."