As full-time executive secretary at the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS), Aleks Štolfa has a wide remit incorporating duties as match manager for his country's A teams and as tournament director for the youth teams and futsal. It is in the latter capacity that he will be kept particularly busy in the build-up to May's UEFA European Under-17 Championship, the first final tournament Slovenia that has hosted.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to Slovenia to host the men's U17 tournament this summer?
Aleks Štolfa: It means a lot – it means the culmination of a long-term effort and it fulfils the wishes of Slovenian FA leaders, both past and present. And it is confirmation that we are good organisers, because I'm sure that we have achieved this goal of hosting a championship on the basis of having organised mini-tournaments in the past.
UEFA.com: Has the NZS staged many mini-tournaments for UEFA qualifying competitions over the last five years?
Štolfa: Yes – I don't know the exact number, but I think it would be something like 20, in all categories.
UEFA.com: And are your preparations for May going well so far?
Štolfa: Yes, so far we are on time, keeping to schedule. We are still reaching our milestones. Now we are finishing contracts for hotel accommodation; however, we have achieved an agreement with them all, we just have to sign the final contracts. We have achieved final decisions with the stadia. We have been with Eurosport too. The venues are confirmed. So now our main goal is to finish the marketing and promotional parts of the project. Everything else is going smoothly. I'm more than convinced that we will be in good time.
UEFA.com: What do you think the teams and their fans can expect when they come to Slovenia?
Štolfa: First of all, I know it's a cliche, but a very high level of hospitality. And then a very high level of organisation too. I know there will be no time for looking around, that the teams are there mainly for sporting success, but I think they will be released from any outside worries – they don't have to expect anything unexpected. We have covered everything that should be involved in a good organisation. We are very keen to complete this project at the highest level.
UEFA.com: How strong do you expect the Slovenia team to be given they qualified for the tournament automatically as hosts?
Štolfa: Well, we know that we are not the top team, and we know that we would be only dreaming of taking part in the final tournament [unless as hosts]; however, the matches played until today – against England, against France – show that we have a promising generation. We don't expect to win the championship of course, but we do expect that our team will attract a lot of people, and we will have something to show. Of course you never know, and you have to know that in Slovenia we are choosing [from] between 250 to 300 players in one generation, so it's a miracle to put the national team on a level to be competitive; but we are sure that we will be competitive for the rest of the teams in the championship.
UEFA.com: Did you go to the U17 tournament last summer as part of your preparations?
Štolfa: Yes, I was there in Serbia last summer, and also in Liechtenstein in 2010 as part of the bidding procedure, to see what standards need to be fulfilled in order to achieve such a big project. However, in Serbia, UEFA hosted us for four days and we saw the whole organisation. And I must say that we are very familiar with the organisational needs of a tournament like this. Of course, it helps to know that UEFA also brings a very qualified team, and we will be helped by this team.
UEFA.com: How many people do you have working on the project, as part of the local organising committee?
Štolfa: We have a team of nine people – I mean the top organisational team – and it's doing very well, it's on schedule. But yes, we are now studying how to involve people from outside the FA, to include them in this project. I am very aware of the need for many volunteers, because the Slovenian FA does not employ a large staff.
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