Aleksander Čeferin, former NZS head, marks the past and present achievements of Slovenian football.
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UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin helped the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS) celebrate its centenary by participating in an online video conference to discuss the 'beautiful game'.
Mr Čeferin, a former NZS president, was joined by his successor Radenko Mijatović together with Rudi Zavrl, honorary president and the association's first ever president. Earlier in April, Borut Pahor, the President of Slovenia, awarded the Order of Exceptional Merits to the NZS in recognition of its role in advancing the nation's prosperity and progress.
By livestreaming the debate, the federation was able to mark its 100th anniversary while complying with COVID-19-related social distance restrictions.
However, the ongoing lockdown has forced the NZS to postpone plans to launch a photo exhibition charting its history, as well as a television documentary and red-carpet event, until the end of the year.
The pandemic has also caused the cancellation of a friendly match against 2016 European champions Portugal scheduled for the end of May.
In good hands
"One hundred years is a big anniversary of which we are all proud," said Aleksander Čeferin. "My first role in football was that of a football fan. I was somebody who was critical when the national team lost an important game. Then I became president of the national association and it was then that I realised how ignorant I had been about football, how senseless my criticising was.
"As a President of UEFA I look on football now from a completely new perspective, but I still remain passionate about football and the Slovenian national team. I follow the progress of football in Slovenia and I'm happy that it is in good hands. Because of that I have no doubt that the future is bright for the Slovenian FA and Slovenian football. There can be rivalries on the field, but off of them football has to be united so that it can be successful."
NZS president Radenko Mijatović added: "It's a special feeling to be in charge of the association during its centenary. Most likely my predecessor would be in my place right now if he wasn't at the head of UEFA, which he runs more than successfully. But being here at this time is a special honour and a pleasure."
Since gaining independence less than 30 years ago, Slovenia – a country of just over two million people – has consistently overachieved on the football pitch. Qualification for UEFA EURO 2000 was followed by participation at the 2002 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, while the national team boasts players with experience of performing at the highest level in the top European leagues.
Investing in Slovenia's footballing future
UEFA funding has helped Slovenia lay the structural foundations for long-term success, as part of UEFA's €44m investment in European grassroots football, of which €11m is supporting UEFA's Football In Schools initiative – a four-year plan to develop school football.
Six school teams made up of both boys and girls – two from Slovenia and one each from neighbouring countries Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy – competed at the initiative's launch event in Ljubljana, attended by President Čeferin last September.
National football centre
In 2016, the NZS opened a new national football centre in Brdo at the foot of the Alps – an €8.5m project, 90% financed by UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme and FIFA's Goal project.
The state-of-the-art training facility provides all of Slovenia's national teams with perfect conditions to prepare for matches, just 200 metres from the NZS headquarters.
The centre also hosts local clubs' matches and youth football, as well as dozens of events and training sessions for coaches and referees throughout the year. Foreign clubs can also hire the centre for training camps.