UEFA President Michel Platini expects a "spectacular celebration of football" at the Artemio Franchi Memorial Match.
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On a day on which one of the greatest advocates of fair play and decency is being remembered in Florence, UEFA President Michel Platini took the opportunity to commend ACF Fiorentina for their sporting initiative and hoped for a "spectacular celebration of football" between the Italian club and FC Barcelona at the Artemio Franchi Memorial Match.
The match is being played to honour the 25th anniversary of the death of former UEFA President Dr Artemio Franchi at the age of 61. Hailing from Florence, he had been in office as UEFA's third president for ten years when he was killed in a car accident in Tuscany on 12 August 1983. His passing brought to a premature end the life of a much-loved figure, who did a great deal to develop the structure of European football and promote the positive side of the game. Mr Platini was speaking with Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle, Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Francesco Franchi, the son of Artemio.
"I am very pleased to be here with Mr Della Valle, Mr Laporta and Mr Franchi to commemorate Mr Franchi," said Mr Platini. "UEFA wanted to do something to remember Mr Franchi and when Fiorentina proposed a football match, I contacted Mr Laporta and he agreed to take part immediately. There will be many champions on the pitch this evening and hopefully it will be a spectacular celebration of football."
Dr Franchi's good work in improving the standards of match officials and the relations between referees and football clubs was the start of a brilliant career as a footballing administrator. He became General Secretary of Fiorentina football club, where his skills as a mediator, organiser and forward-thinker were soon recognised by the Italian Football Federation, where he rose through the ranks to twice become president, from 1967 to 1976 and 1978 to 1980. He became both vice-president of FIFA and UEFA President in 1973.
Among his achievements he played key role in the inception of the UEFA Cup and was also chiefly responsible for expanding the UEFA European Championship. "Today is all about Mr Franchi," said Della Valle. "This match is to honour everything he did for this club, this city and this region. He was a symbol of Florence and Italian football. That Barcelona have taken the time to participate in this match is fantastic. They are one of the greatest sides in the world. And tonight's sell-out crowd in this hot weather also shows that Fiorentina fans continue to surprise you."
Artemio Franchi Cup
Dr Franchi had previously been honoured when the trophy awarded to the winners of a match played between the European and South American champions was named after him, a forerunner to the FIFA Confederations Cup. It was first won in 1985 when France defeated Uruguay and the winning captain that day, Mr Platini said: "I remember wanting to win that match badly, because to play in the Artemio Franchi Cup, you had to be European champions. It was a very important trophy for me."
The proceeds of tonight's match, which will be played before a sell-out crowd of 40,000 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, will go to three charities supported by the two clubs: the Fondazione Artemio Franchi, the Fondazione Fiorentina Onlus and FC Barcelona's Fundació FCB. "It's a great honour for Barcelona to be here to commemorate Artemio Franchi," added Laporta. "Barcelona does a great deal of social work and we have always striven to show great loyalty to our civic and humanitarian duties."