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The UEFA Champions League enters the 2010/11 campaign consolidating its reputation as the competition which the top players and clubs want to play in and win.
At the third qualifying round draw ceremony in Nyon on Friday, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino underlined the enduring strength of European club football. He said that players from Europe and elsewhere who have recently excelled in the FIFA World Cup will be performing for clubs in the UEFA Champions League in the coming months.
Mr Infantino congratulated winners Spain, runners-up the Netherlands and third-placed Germany for their successes in South Africa. "This fills us Europeans with a lot of pride," the UEFA general secretary reflected. "All of their players are on permanent display in our competitions, but this was the case of many players from other teams, including non-Europeans, too. It is a major achievement and a big source of satisfaction – which tells the world how high the level of European club football is.
"We know how difficult it is to make it to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, which is widely acclaimed as the best and most challenging club competition in the world," Mr Infantino told club delegates.
"Clubs, players, coaches and supporters all want to be in it. You have a sporting chance: make it a wonderful football contest, put all your best energies to succeed and preserve fair play and respect. Please do all that you can to make sure that your matches in the competition remain as a fond memory in the minds of your supporters."
The UEFA general secretary concluded by calling on clubs and their fans to adhere to the values of fair play and sportsmanship. "The UEFA policy has not changed: we are strongly against racism and violence, which will never be tolerated.
"We are enthusiastically in favour of respect for opponents, for referees and for the game of football itself. To help us pursue this objective, may I ask you to do your utmost to welcome visiting fans at your home matches with warmth."
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