UEFA President Michel Platini has presented the UEFA Europa League trophy to the city of Amsterdam as the countdown to the 15 May final begins in earnest.
The ceremony took place at the famous Beurs van Berlage building in the Dutch city. Gabi, captain of holders Club Atlético de Madrid, brought the distinctive silverware on stage and handed it to Mr Platini. He then gave it to Eberhard van der Laan, mayor of Amsterdam, for the city to keep and display to the public until the final at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Mr Platini said he had a clear image of Amsterdam "as a football city from the Ajax of Johan Cruyff of the 1970s with their beautiful matches". The UEFA President added that the legendary Dutchman had acted as a source of inspiration for him. On the UEFA Europa League, he added: "It takes care of football's soul. The Europa League is the most open competition in Europe, with lots of clubs capable of winning it."
As he got to grips with the heaviest of all UEFA silverware at 15kg, Van der Laan spoke of the city's pride. "Thanks for this beautiful cup. Having lifted it I have even more respect for the players who have won it," he said. "We are honoured to host the final at the Amsterdam ArenA.
"We are a football city. We do not just have that one professional club; we are also blessed with a lot of amateur sides. We are very aware of the social importance of football to our society. I want to thank UEFA for the splendid maxi-pitch they donated, which is in east Amsterdam, where a lot of children will be able to play for years to come."
This trophy has been to Amsterdam before, when AFC Ajax lifted it at their former Olympisch Stadion home after an away goals triumph over Torino FC in 1992. It was the UEFA Cup then, and a two-legged final. Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) president Michael van Praag, Ajax's chairman 21 years ago, said he would never forget it. "We have to make it a memorable day for the clubs and the fans to come," he added. "Together with our UEFA colleagues we will do our best to make 15 May unforgettable."
UEFA Europa League final ambassador Patrick Kluivert suspects it may be, paying tribute to "a very exciting competition". He took the trophy on the next leg of its journey, on a barge down Amsterdam's famous canals to the Olympisch Stadion, where it will be displayed to the public.
Between now and the final the trophy will also be exhibited across the city before a last appearance on 15 May in the arms of the 2013 UEFA Europa League champions:
19 April: Topscore finale, Sporthallen Zuid
21 April: Olympic Experience
23 April: City Hall (exhibition and photo opportunities)
25 April: RTL (host broadcaster) studios
26 April: Reade rehabilitation centre
28 April: Olympic Experience
1 May: SV Geinburgia
2 May: KNVB, Zeist
2 May: RTL (host broadcaster) studios
9 May: National Futsal Day, Sporthallen Zuid
12 May: Olympic Experience
14 May: Final Grassroots Tournament, Swift, Olympiaplein
tbc: Museum in Amsterdam
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