UEFA President Michel Platini has visited Lithuania, where he met government officials and representatives of the Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF). Mr Platini also participated in a day of grassroots football activities and underlined UEFA's support for football projects in the country.
The UEFA President was visiting Lithuania for the fourth time, and returned to the National Football Academy training complex in Kaunas – a technical centre with an indoor football hall, three artificial turf pitches and one natural grass pitch – built with the assistance of UEFA and world football's governing body FIFA.
"It is nice to be back in Lithuania – I was here at the opening of the training centre four years ago," said Mr Platini, before praising the work undertaken by the LFF. "I can assure you that a lot has changed since then," he reflected. "The LFF has further developed the centre's infrastructure and has also done a particularly fine job in promoting grassroots football in the country. As a result, the number of participants has risen tenfold."
The UEFA President also urged Lithuanian government officials to back the construction of a national stadium. Mr Platini highlighted UEFA's support by announcing that the governing body has just recently approved financial assistance for the LFF's project to upgrade a stadium in Vilnius.
"We are very thankful to UEFA for its massive support in football development projects such as this one," said LFF president Liutauras Varanavičius. "The upgrading of the stadium will allow it to meet requirements for hosting national-team matches. On top of that, a new full-size artificial pitch will help both professionals and amateurs to lengthen the football season in adverse weather conditions."
After addressing the press, the UEFA President moved to the training pitches to mark the opening of the new Lithuanian football school championship season – a large grassroots football project featuring 800 teams. Braving the rainy weather, Mr Platini was greeted by around 200 local schoolchildren. He told them to remember that "football is the most beautiful game in the world" as well as symbolically kicking off the games.
Even more children were present at the indoor hall for a pre-school children's football festival, which was held to close the LFF's mini indoor kindergarten football project season and promote the upcoming UEFA Grassroots Day activities on Wednesday 25 May. To the delight of the youngest footballers, they were rewarded for their participation by the UEFA President who gave autographs and posed for photos.
To conclude the visit, Mr Platini, along with other senior UEFA officials, joined Lithuanian government and national association officials for a dinner and detailed discussions on cooperation in the development of football infrastructure projects.
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