The 2013 UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by Heineken, kicked off in style as European club football's most prized silverware visited Rio de Janeiro.
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The 2013 UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour, presented by Heineken, is up and running – with football-mad Brazil and the city of Rio de Janeiro providing a superb setting for fans to see the most prized silverware in European club football.
Two stars of the game were on hand for the first leg at the Lagoon in Rio de Janeiro: UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour ambassador Bebeto, a 1994 FIFA World Cup winner and scorer of 39 goals in 75 appearances for Brazil, and Heineken ambassador Clarence Seedorf, the ex-Netherlands midfielder who lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy on four occasions – with AFC Ajax (1995), Real Madrid CF (1998) and AC Milan (2003, 2007) – plus the UEFA Super Cup twice with Milan.
One of the early highlights of the Rio event was an afternoon of foot-volley on Ipanema beach to promote the tour. Two fans were invited – and, without prior knowledge of what was going to happen, were stunned and delighted to be joined by a group of Brazilian greats: Deco, Serginho, Juliano Belletti, Júnior and Bebeto. A great time was had as these former international footballers joined the public in showing off their skills.
Various media activities and interviews were staged, including a round-table discussion involving Bebeto and Seedorf. The trophy was taken by Seedorf to several television stations and given pride of place on football shows, as Brazilian TV viewers got an on-screen taste of the aura of the prize that the world's top players want to win.
Over the weekend of 23/24 March, fans attended a special event after registering on the Heineken Brazil website. They were able to see an exhibition about the glamorous history of the UEFA Champions League featuring several memorabilia items, and could interact with the content via an augmented trophy tour app. Bebeto helped raise the atmosphere, signing autographs and having photos taken with visitors and the trophy.
"The Brazilian fans here follow the Champions League a lot," said Bebeto, 49, emphasising the competition's global appeal. "All matches that are shown, the Brazilian fans will be in front of the TV supporting their players, their teams.
"We have many fans here of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus and the other European teams. So it's a pleasure for us, the trophy being here in Brazil, it's an honour, and I thank UEFA a lot for giving Brazilians this opportunity to see the trophy up close – something so many players dream about."
"Entertainment and great football," was how Seedorf – 36 and currently playing for Rio club Botafogo FR – summed up the UEFA Champions League. "Unforgettable evenings ... I think that is what it's all about: experience, emotions and the special touch that the Champions League brings on the field and off the field."
The Dutchman also reflected on how the rarified atmosphere pushes players to perform at their very best. "Since the Champions League is the cup that all clubs want to win, it is the No1 goal of the year. That's what it's all about, that is where the pressure comes, that is where you need to perform on the spot."
The UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour is an annual event taking place on different continents during the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. It is a travelling heritage exhibition and trophy display, focusing on current players, coaches and matches to promote the tournament and its history.
UEFA has a series of objectives for the tour: to bring the UEFA Champions League trophy closer to the fans and offer them a unique football experience; and to share the story of the European Champion Clubs' Cup and UEFA Champions League, including the footballers and clubs who have graced the competition over five decades.
In addition, the event encourages people to play football. Fans are key stakeholders in the game, and the tour aims to deepen relations with them in areas of the world where there is huge interest in the sport. Furthermore, it motivates supporters to share UEFA values such as fair play and respect.