The president of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), Giorgos Sarris, has visited the House of European Football in Nyon for talks with UEFA officials.
Elected as EPO president in October 2012, Mr Sarris held discussions with UEFA President Michel Platini and members of the European body's management which centred on the development of football in Europe and Greece, as well as UEFA's assistance to Greece under, among others, its HatTrick and women's football development programmes.
Giorgos Sarris was voted onto the EPO board in 2008, assuming the presidency of the amateur division championship (D' Ethniki). He also served as president of the association's central refereeing committee before becoming president last autumn.
The EPO, established in 1926, was a founder member of UEFA in 1954. By respecting both the European governing body and its rules, the EPO has always tried to assist in efforts aimed at the sport's growth, not only in Greece but across Europe. Recent years, in particular, have seen rapid progress, and many of the country's football stadiums are being modernised to meet UEFA specifications.
Greek clubs, led by Olympiacos FC and Panathinaikos FC, have been a constant presence in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League in recent times. Panathinaikos reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup final in 1971, and got as far as the semi-finals in 1984/85 and 1995/96. Olympiacos, AEK Athens FC, Panionios GSS and Larissa FC have also performed creditably in UEFA competitions.
But it was Greece's triumph at UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal which represents the summit of the nation's footballing achievements. The Greek side coached by Otto Rehhagel beat Portugal through Angelos Charisteas's goal in the Lisbon final. In UEFA EURO 2012, Fernando Santos's men progressed to the quarter-finals, and the senior side have contested the final round of six major tournaments – two FIFA World Cups and four UEFA European Championships, including each of the last three.
Meanwhile, the Under-21 squad were runners-up at two UEFA European U21 Championships, in 1988 and 1998, and the U19s followed their example by advancing to the 2007 European final, going down to Spain.
"The benefits from UEFA's contributions to the national associations are multiple," said Mr Sarris after the fruitful talks in Nyon. "It is highly important for us to have a strong strategic ally in the efforts we have been making to improve the functioning and effectiveness of Greek football, especially in fields such as infrastructure and women’s football."
The EPO president welcomed UEFA's measures in certain areas which are designed to bolster European football's well-being. He hoped that Greek clubs would be able to achieve financial consolidation, either through the association's own national mechanisms or via UEFA's financial fair play measures – "a programme that is truly realistic and necessary," said Mr Sarris.
Infrastructure development is just one of many ambitious plans for the future, which include the creation of a football museum in Greece. In addition, the EPO is keen to make a full contribution to, and learn from the various UEFA programmes whereby knowledge and expertise are being transferred between European FAs with football's overall good health in mind.
If UEFA EURO 2004 glory fulfilled a dream for Greece and its football fans, it also made them hungry for more success in the future. "My sincere wish is for the national team to maintain a position within the international elite of our football family, by taking part in EURO and World Cup final rounds," explained Mr Sarris, a firm believer in footballing values such as respect and esteem. "By strengthening or developing our infrastructures, I would also like the younger sides to be able to achieve excellence– proving that today's high-quality teams can provide the lead for successful teams tomorrow."
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