The president of the Football Association of Finland (SPL-FBF), Sauli Niinistö, has visited UEFA's House of European Football in Nyon.
Mr Niinistö, who was accompanied by SPL-FBF general secretary Kimmo Lipponen, met UEFA president Michel Platini, general secretary Gianni Infantino and national associations director Theodore Theodoridis for talks focusing on the relationship between UEFA and the Finnish association, in particular through the assistance given to Finland under the UEFA HatTrick programme which works on behalf of the European body's 53 member associations.
Finland has made impressive progress in football terms in recent years, with its national team becoming competitive enough to challenge strongly for a place in major final rounds. A good number of Finnish players have made their mark on the European stage, and the country's profile and image were further enhanced by hosting last year's successful UEFA European Women's Championship.
"It's been a very profitable day, we've had very good discussions. UEFA is very willing to give a helping hand to national associations in [various] matters," Mr Niinistö told UEFA.com.
"Finland is a northern country, so in that sense we have quite difficult circumstances. We have to compete with ice hockey as well, and resources are limited – so each time you can tell the communities about involvement in a HatTrick project, [with] the possibility of making a start on something, that is very valuable.
"Football is the biggest sport in Finland if you count the number of people involved," Mr Niinistö added. "So it's not only a sport, there's also a huge social dimension – getting youngsters doing something else than walking on the street – and I guess this will be more and more important in the future.
"The [men's] national team has got better over each decade. We are very pleased with the decision of UEFA to increase the number of teams taking part in the EURO final round to 24 – that gives us a possibility. Getting to the finals for Finland would mean something similar to France winning the competition, it would be a huge step."
The future looks bright and positive for Finnish football. "We have a strategy for top football, and we are very pleased with our experiences of women's football," said Mr Niinistö. "We see families getting more interested. What we saw at the women's final round was different people such as families – there was a pleasant and joyful feeling among them. We are trying to make people enjoy coming to see football."
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