The new president of the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS), Aleksander Čeferin, has visited the House of European Football in Nyon.
Mr Čeferin held talks with the UEFA President Michel Platini and other senior UEFA officials, with discussions centring on Slovenian football's development, in particular with the help given by UEFA through its HatTrick assistance programme on behalf of the 53 UEFA member associations.
Slovenia has provided some memorable moments for its football fans since its affiliation to FIFA and UEFA in 1994. The national team have competed in three major international final tournaments – the FIFA World Cups in Japan/Korea (2002) and South Africa (2010), and UEFA EURO 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The 43-year-old lawyer, who was elected president of the NZS in February, was delighted to come to UEFA. "It's very important for me," he told UEFA.com. "A few months ago I didn't even think about becoming the Slovenia FA's president, and now a few months later I'm here. It's a great honour.
"UEFA is a very important partner of our association and of Slovenian football in general. UEFA's financial contribution represents 24% of the FA's total income. Thanks to the HatTrick project, we have built 21 pitches with artificial turf and 71 mini-pitches." UEFA has been joined by the state of Slovenia and local communities in helping to create such facilities.
Mr Čeferin explained that major plans are afoot in the central European country. "Investment in educational programmes, such as the UEFA refereeing and coaching conventions, grassroots, medical conferences; we're building a new home for Slovenian football, a national football centre with three pitches; and the organisation of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship [final round] in 2012."
Slovenia's impressive achievements are a fine example of how a smaller nation can enjoy success, and hopes are high for more excitement for Slovenia's football enthusiasts. "We are small but we are brave," said Mr Čeferin. "My wish would be to play at least in the semi-finals of the next European Championship in Poland and Ukraine. I think we have a team that can do it."
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