UEFA President Michel Platini has visited Kazakhstan, where he attended the domestic cup final and the gala events to celebrate 100 years of football in the country.
It was Mr Platini's third visit to Kazakhstan. His first trip took place in July 2008 and a year later he also attended the Kazakh Cup final, where FC Shakhter Karagandy lost to FC Atyrau. This time, Shakhter won their first cup after beating FC Taraz. The UEFA President presented the medals to the players.
Mr Platini was accompanied on his visit by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA fifth vice-president Grigoriy Surkis. During the celebrations to mark Kazakh football's centenary, he congratulated the Football Federation of Kazakhstan (KFF) and its president Adilbek Jaxybekov, in particular for the association's development work which was giving people – especially children – the chance to play football in optimum conditions.
Following national independence in 1991, Kazakhstan became a member association of UEFA in 2002, having initially joined FIFA in 1994 as a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). "I am proud that Kazakhstan became a member of UEFA, and has proved itself as an excellent member association," said the UEFA President.
Mr Platini also took the opportunity to congratulate Kazakhstan on some fine performances at club and national team levels. "I would like to mention the success of FC Kairat Almaty in winning the [2012/13] UEFA Futsal Cup," he said, in tribute to the first European title in Kazakhstan's football history.
"The performances of Shakhter Karagandy, first in the UEFA Champions League qualifying competition and then in the UEFA Europa League group phase, also show just what a challenge it is now to come and play against Kazakh teams." The European football family will be returning to the Kazakh capital Astana next spring for the XXXVIII Ordinary UEFA Congress, and Mr Platini said he was looking forward to what would undoubtedly be a well-organised event.
"A hundred years is a great landmark," said Adilbek Jaxybekov. "Now we are making progress in big strides. And the success of Kairat in futsal and Shakhter's example prove that."
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