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Aleksander Čeferin shares in Serbia’s centenary joy

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin hailed Serbia for its footballing achievements as the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) held its 100th anniversary celebrations.

Football Association of Serbia (FSS) President Slaviša Kokeza and Aleksander Čeferin
Football Association of Serbia (FSS) President Slaviša Kokeza and Aleksander Čeferin ©FSS

Mr Čeferin was a guest of honour at a special centenary event held at Belgrade's National Theatre on Friday.

Aleksander Čeferin in discussion with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić (right)
Aleksander Čeferin in discussion with Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić (right)©FSS

During his visit, Mr Čeferin and the FSS President Slaviša Kokeza also met the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and the country's Minister of Sport, Vanja Udovičić.

"Known for football virtuosos"

"Serbia has always been a country of football, sport and great players, a country of great emotions, an inexhaustible nursery of talents," the UEFA President told the audience at the anniversary event, which included Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabić.

"There is no football country in the world that does not know your players and coaches," Mr Čeferin added, paying tribute to Serbian footballers, coaches and administrators who have left their mark on football over the years in Europe and beyond. "You have always been known for football virtuosos."

Aleksander Čeferin during his address
Aleksander Čeferin during his address©FSS

"Coming from Slovenia, I have a natural affiliation with all the countries in the Balkans, and Serbia is no exception," said the UEFA President ahead of his visit to Belgrade. "As a child, I grew up idolising players from across the whole region who would go on to grace both the European and world stage."

Club success

Mr Čeferin highlighted past successes such as Belgrade-based outfit FK Crvena zvezda's feat in winning the European Champion Clubs' Cup for Yugoslavia in 1991, and fellow Belgrade club FK Partizan's achievement in reaching the final of the same competition in 1966. Serbian players also contributed to Yugoslavia reaching two EURO finals, in 1960 and 1968, and winning the Olympic football gold medal in 1960.

Serbia celebrate their European Under-19 title triumph in 2013
Serbia celebrate their European Under-19 title triumph in 2013©Sportsfile

Serbia has enjoyed particular success in youth competitions during the current decade. After winning the UEFA European Under-19 title in 2013, a fine generation of talent would go a step further two years later by winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

"It is my hope that Serbian football will continue to invest in order to produce players of such calibre for years to come," Mr Čeferin reflected.

The UEFA President was decorated with The Golden Pin, the highest honour given by the FSS for an outstanding contribution to the development of football in Serbia.

"A journey worth living"

FSS President Slaviša Kokeza
FSS President Slaviša Kokeza©FSS

"There are 100 long years behind us, and this is a jubilee that is worthy of respect – it has been a journey worth living," said FSS President Slaviša Kokeza. "A country that has given birth to winners and legends whose names have remained golden in the world of football."

Mr Kokeza thanked UEFA and FIFA for the assistance being given to Serbia to help its footballing development.

"We pride ourselves on the past, but we also think of the future," the FSS President said. "We want to move together - one step further, one step more, aware that talent alone is not enough in the long term. That is why we are planning major investments in infrastructure, pitches and stadiums."

UEFA's helping hand

The past ten years have seen UEFA commit more than €90 million to the FSS and Serbian clubs in the form of solidarity payments and prize money from UEFA club competitions, with the majority of funding through the solidarity payments coming from the UEFA HatTrick programme.

The FSS has made good use of such funding:

• Opening of the National Team Training Centre for all national men's and women's teams in Stara Pazova in 2011.

• Building of dozens of mini-pitches and full-sized playing surfaces in cities and towns across the country in order to facilitate grassroots development.

In November, the FSS also launched the 'Lets Play Football' programme, which has seen football being introduced into primary schools, with lessons given to children as part of the country's school curriculum.