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Football Association of Slovenia (NZS) president Aleksander Čeferin has high hopes ahead of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, which starts in his home country on Friday. Speaking to UEFA.com at the finals draw last month, Čeferin discussed how preparations had been going as well as the host team's chances of a successful tournament.
UEFA.com: How have preparations gone for the tournament?
Aleksander Čeferin: I am extremely happy. The technical staff have done a very good job, and I think the championship will proceed smoothly, and in the way that it has to run.
UEFA.com: What about the infrastructure? All the four stadiums, all the accommodation, how are things with that?
Čeferin: Everything is going to be ready as planned. We are conscious that two stadiums are smaller and are not on the same level as the other two in Maribor and Ljubljana, but that is going to be very important for the local area. I am sure at the stadiums in Lendava and Domzale there will be more spectators than in Maribor and Ljubljana.
UEFA.com: Are you expecting a lot of spectators as this is the first tournament of such a level in Slovenia?
Čeferin: The question is what constitutes a good attendance in this kind of tournament. But I am sure that we will do everything to bring a lot of spectators. We will give a certain amount of tickets away for free, especially to kids, young players, and we will be very happy to see a lot of kids, youngsters and families. Of course it depends on results of the Slovenian team, and if they make it through to the next stage.
UEFA.com: What exactly does this kind of organisation mean for Slovenian football?
Čeferin: For our FA it means that we have to do our best, and this is like a test for us if we want to be host of a championship for some older generations. It is impossible for us even to think we could host a main EURO, but I think we could do it for U21s, and I am sure that the UEFA representatives will be proud of us as organisers.
UEFA.com: What about the progress and work with young footballers in Slovenia?
Čeferin: I think we are working very well at junior level, we have quality and professional staff. Our national championship is not at the highest level, because there is not the money and investment compared to other European leagues, but there is more space for young players, so they can reach the top league very early. Because of that I think Slovenia is a good area for the development of young players, and I would like to make an appeal to young players not to go abroad before they are 18 years old, or even later.
UEFA.com: What are you expecting from the host team?
Čeferin: I am always optimistic – many people say that I am too optimistic – so I am expecting to get through the first stage.
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