UEFA's invaluable assistance in helping build a stadium fit for a European club final has been highlighted during the visit of new Football Association of Ireland (FAI) president, Paddy McCaul, to UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Mr McCaul, accompanied by FAI CEO John Delaney, held talks with UEFA president Michel Platini and senior UEFA officials which centred on the continuing progress of football in the Republic of Ireland, and the assistance given to the FAI by UEFA through its HatTrick programme on behalf of all 53 UEFA member associations.
The Republic of Ireland will host a major European club final for the first time on Wednesday 18 May 2011 – the Dublin Arena is the venue for the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League final. The occasion will set the seal on a momentous first full season for the new 50,000-seat stadium, which is now home to the Republic of Ireland's football and rugby union teams.
"We have a wonderful new stadium and headquarters with the help of UEFA," Mr McCaul told UEFA.com. "The whole country is looking forward to the final. We are grateful to UEFA for having chosen us. It's a huge boost both to the economy and to the sporting life of the country. We're proud of the new stadium, and it will be a great occasion for both Ireland and UEFA."
Grassroots development is another key objective of the FAI in a country which shows a fierce passion for the game – as has been evident on regular occasions when the national team achieves success. "The support for the game at a national level is phenomenal – the senior soccer team is one of the most talked-about things in the country," said Mr McCaul.
"The development of our league has also been a priority for us, and our stadiums have been developed. We are always giving ourselves targets. We see the benefits of our important relationship with UEFA, it is an integral part of our game at all levels."
One dream is to see a club from the Republic of Ireland reach the UEFA Europa League group stage in the near future. "It's a huge ask, in terms of the quality that you need to have," Mr McCaul continued, "but we've been knocking on the door for a few years, and we feel that we're ready. Hopefully one of our teams will emerge in the next couple of years, and we have contenders. We need to make the leap to the next stage ... one of my goals is to witness it."
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