Turkey has expressed its pride and honour at hosting the European football family and distinguished guests at the XXXVI Ordinary UEFA Congress in Istanbul.
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – a passionate football man – spoke of the need for football to be a symbol of peace and friendship. He urged continued work and investment to encourage as many young people as possible to become involved in sport, and called on sport to fight negative phenomena such as match-fixing and racism.
"For 15 years I gave a lot to football," said Mr Erdoğan, "and I learned discipline and other virtues for the rest of my life. Indeed, football should be kept an instrument of peace, solidarity and fair play.
"I'd like to thank UEFA for coming back to Turkey and Istanbul. Turkey is a country which is in love with football and whose people contribute to football. We are building new facilities and are making our presence more noticeable."
Istanbul has hosted the 2005 UEFA Champions League final and 2009 UEFA Cup final in recent years, and Antalya will stage the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship this summer. In addition, Turkey will hold the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
"We have a young population and a large sporting population," said the Prime Minister. "We want to contribute friendship and peace through sport – football is the language of peace."
Turkish Football Association (TFF) president Yıldırım Demirören welcomed the Congress guests to Turkey. "I would like express my gratitude to UEFA," he said. "Turkey is the sixth largest football country in Europe and will be on the front line to find solutions to problems in European football. This country, where civilisations meet, has hosted important football occasions in recent years."
Mr Demirören voiced his support in particular for UEFA's financial fair play measures. "The clubs should have a sound financial structure and they should be able to make use of their resources in the best possible manner," he said. The TFF president talked about the forthcoming work in Turkey that would see continued development of infrastructures, as well as a drive to attract more youngsters to football.
The President of world football's governing body FIFA, Joseph S Blatter, highlighted the importance of UEFA to the world football movement. "Thank you to the UEFA Executive Committee and the UEFA President Michel Platini for the excellent relationship which exists between UEFA and FIFA," he said. "Congratulations to Europe for all the efforts that you are making to ensure that the game remains a game."
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