The new president of the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FAČR), Miroslav Pelta, has visited the House of European Football in Nyon today.
Mr Pelta, who was elected FAČR president in November, held talks with the UEFA President Michel Platini and other senior UEFA officials. Discussions focused in particular on the game's development in the Czech Republic and on the help given by UEFA through its HatTrick assistance programme.
The Czech Republic has established an excellent footballing reputation since the amicable division from Slovakia. The national team were runners-up at EURO '96 in England and won the 2002 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Switzerland. Many fine players – such as Pavel Nedvěd, Karel Poborský, Petr Čech, Milan Baroš and Jan Koller – have emerged to play throughout Europe and enhance the country's sporting stature.
This summer Czech fans will have another opportunity to celebrate their national team, as they will be tilting at European glory at UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. A new generation of players came successfully through a tough qualifying campaign to finish group runners-up behind European champions Spain, before overcoming Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate in their qualifying play-off in November.
It was an ideal moment therefore for Mr Pelta, an experienced football administrator, to come to the House of European Football. "The Czech Republic is a country that enjoys being part of this football family and I am very happy to have been able to accept the invitation," he told UEFA.com. "There is a very good atmosphere in the Czech Republic because we have qualified for the EURO, and we are very satisfied with the work we are undertaking together with UEFA."
Mr Pelta feels that the HatTrick scheme is a superb example of the solidarity principle that exists within European football. "We have discussed the further possibilities that exist for the association and UEFA to work together with the HatTrick programme," he added. "We have a new House of Football and will be building a new training centre with UEFA's help – this help is extremely important for Czech football's existence."
Having regularly produced splendid players who have excelled on the European and world stages, Mr Pelta and the FAČR are determined to continue this development process. "We will accentuate our work with youngsters," he pledged. "We have great competition from other sports in the Czech Republic, such as ice hockey, and we need the support of the schools – and we need the children themselves, who play football on computers, but not on the field!
"We have good youth teams – the Under-19s reached the European Championship final [in 2011] – but we now need the new generation to come through. It's very important that we can regularly reach EURO and FIFA World Cup final rounds from a sporting and financial point of view."
The latest EURO beckons for the latest Czech vintage. "The qualifying tournament was not so easy," said Mr Pelta, "but we managed to come through the play-off and I think the team now has fresh impetus."
In addition, fresh impulses at club level have brought a welcome departure this season. "In the UEFA Champions League there was an important moment for Czech club football," the FAČR president explained. "We always had [AC] Sparta [Praha] and [SK] Slavia [Praha] in the Champions League up to now – and now we have had a regional club, FC Viktoria Plzeň, in the competition. They have done well. They have qualified for the UEFA Europa League and now play FC Schalke 04. This shows it is possible for a regional club to get into the UEFA Champions League."
Miroslav Pelta mirrors the hopes of the Czech football community for a rosy future. "My wish is that Czech football has further successes in the future and that more spectators will come to the stadiums. I also hope the whole of European football will be happy in the future – the UEFA family is a good family."
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