UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin described Italy's relationship with football as "the most beautiful of love stories" when he attended the Italian Football Association's 120th anniversary celebrations in Rome.
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UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has attended the celebrations in Rome to mark the 120th anniversary of the Italian Football Association (FIGC).
At Rome’s Quirinale Palace, Mr Čeferin met the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and state under-secretary and sports minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, who also joined representatives of the Italian, European and world football communities and other distinguished guests to mark the FIGC’s milestone.
Italy has made its mark over the years as a passionate football stronghold, and has produced some of the greatest players and coaches in the history of the game, as well as a host of outstanding administrators who have shaped the future of football in Europe and across the globe.
The Italian Football Association (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio – FIGC) was founded on 16 March 1898 in Turin.
Since then, the FIGC has been the guiding force of football in Italy – a sport loved by millions throughout the country, who have celebrated the triumphs of the national team – winners of four FIFA World Cups (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) and one European Championship (1968) – and world-renowned Italian club teams.
“It is often said that football is a religion in Italy,” said Mr Čeferin, “but I think it is something different to that. It is the most beautiful of love stories, a unique, endless story that has lasted for 120 years.”
Mr Čeferin praised the tireless work undertaken by the FIGC to nurture football across the country, and pledged UEFA’s continued support to the association in its endeavours. He also urged Italy to invest in sporting infrastructures, in particular to develop modern stadiums.
Mr Mattarella described Mr Čeferin’s words as “a good recommendation, also for reasons of security and efficiency.”
The Italian President called for a balance to be maintained between economic interests and sporting aspects, and focused in particular on the development of women’s football, welcoming Italy’s recent qualification for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
“Women’s football is no longer under-valued,” he said, and that is a great result.” He emphasised the primordial importance of investing in youngsters for the good of the game.
“We as members of the [Italian] national team have a great responsibility,” added Italy’s national team captain Giorgio Chiellini, “to be the bearers of values that must apply in each context, and especially in relation to young people.”