Title-winners embark on dream journey

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino paid tribute to the 36 title-winners lining up at the start of the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League season with the same "beautiful dream".

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino conducts the draw
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino conducts the draw ©UEFA.com

The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League season has got under way with UEFA praising the clubs setting out in the qualifying competition for contributing to the history of European club football's blue riband competition.

"The draws today mark the start of a long and difficult road that winds through the season, ending ultimately in the showpiece of European club football, the UEFA Champions League final, which this season takes place in the magnificent [Fußball] Arena München on Saturday 19 May 2012," UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told club representatives at the draw ceremony for the first and second qualifying rounds at UEFA headquarters in Nyon.

"Now, of course, that may be some way off for many of you, but surely a beautiful dream none the less," he added. "In reaching today's draw all of you have already achieved a significant target by winning your domestic championship – and in so doing, you have earned the right to be here today.

"The UEFA Champions League is without doubt the best and most challenging club competition in the world," Mr Infantino continued, "and while today you are still some matches away from the renowned group stage – with all of its glamour, glory and rewards – you are all playing a big part in its history.

"Not only that – your participation in Europe is worth valuable points for your own club's coefficient as well as for that of the country you represent, which all goes to help your standing in future draws. And, of course, you are playing in Europe to represent your club and make new history."

Mr Infantino urged the clubs and their fans to abide by UEFA's principles of respect and fair play. "We will come down hard on any issues or incidents either on or off the pitch," he said.