Andorran Football Federation president Victor Santos expressed his delight at being part of the European football family as he visited UEFA's headquarters in Nyon.
Article top media content
The new president of the Andorran Football Federation (FAF), Victor Santos, has visited the House of European Football in Nyon.
Mr Santos, who was elected in October, met UEFA President Michel Platini and members of the UEFA administration for talks on football developments in the principality of some 85,000 people. Discussions also focused on the support that UEFA gives to Andorra under various programmes, including the HatTrick assistance scheme which offers sporting and infrastructure backing.
A former coach of FC Encamp, Victor Santos took over the FAF presidency following 18 years within the association, during which time he carried out various duties, including working with Andorran national sides in both football and futsal, while he also served as sporting director with Encamp. He spent eight years before his election to his current position as the federation's vice-president.
"It has been a dream, a great honour to come to UEFA, to meet Michel Platini, and to get an experience of the amount of work that UEFA does in this great building," Mr Santos told UEFA.com. "The help that UEFA and its President gives us is crucial for us to be able to do our work."
A 4,000-seater stadium in Andorra will be ready next year to greet opposition in the European and world national-team competitions, and Mr Santos is proud that many top European teams and players will be gracing the venue in the coming years.
The small country, with 1,500 registered footballers, a men's Premier Division of eight sides and a ten-team second division, has targets that it wants to achieve. "I would also like us to be able to develop women's football, and build a solid national team, as well as a domestic championship," said Mr Santos.
The association is determined to continue its constant grassroots work to encourage and develop its young players. "We have been able to attract youngsters and to motivate them, and we're very happy to have so many of them," the FAF president added.
Football is extremely popular in Andorra, and each national match brings huge excitement. "It's a dream to see great players come to Andorra, and our players enjoy playing against them," the FAF president said. "There's great passion when we play against teams like the Netherlands [as Andorra did in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, losing only 2-0 at home] – these matches are a celebration for us all. You see these teams on the television, and then we're actually playing them."
Improving results, especially in qualifiers, is a long-term aim. "But we know it is difficult," Mr Santos noted. "We have around 35–38 players to select from, and they work every day – there are no professionals. And we're playing the top teams in Europe. But I can say that we are working hard and making progress all the time."
The FAF was founded in 1994 after political developments in the region resulted in independence for the eastern Pyrenean state. After seven centuries under the joint jurisdiction of France and the Spanish diocese of Seo de Urgell, Andorra became a member of the Council of Europe and the United Nations in 1993. Membership of FIFA and UEFA followed in 1996.
Over the years, Andorra has been gradually gaining experience at club and national-team level. Primera Divisió sides such as UE Sant Julià, FC Santa Coloma, FC Rànger's, Encamp, Constellació Esportiva and CE Principat have all taken part in UEFA tournaments.