Photos: Richard Juilliart – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The UEFA president talks about a great number of changes in European football, the case of the Super League, football philosophy and summers on Hvar

Aleksander Čeferin comes from a respected family of lawyers. The sense of law and justice he developed was handed down from his grandfather, who was a law professor, and father, in whose law firm Aleksander began his career after finishing university. His rise through the ranks of football began in 2011, when he was elected president of the Football Association of Slovenia. He became the seventh president of UEFA in 2016, and he earned a second term as the head of the European football’s governing body in 2019.

You have been the President of UEFA since September 2016. What positive and negative things would you highlight during your six years of running one of the most powerful football organisations?

It has been a fantastic ride. Since 2020 we have gone through unprecedented events that challenged both football and life as we know it. It all started with the pandemic, followed by egoistic projects that would have doomed football as we know it. And now, we have this terrible and extremely tragic war raging on the European continent. But, despite all these obstacles, football emerged more vital than ever. Why? Because UEFA and the European football family have been united from day one, and this unity has not been a facade.
Quite the opposite, it has been genuine and powerful. All of us, without exception, have stood together in the face of obstacles. We talked to each other, listened to each other, and found solutions. All these crises have proved that football is embedded in our society’s DNA once and for all. It is part of our continent’s history – and our collective memories.
For example, UEFA never had to move the final of a Champions League to another venue, but now, due to various issues, we have had to do it for the third time in three years. Not to mention how complicated it was to postpone EURO for a year and then organise it in 11 different countries in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, we always delivered. I must admit that all this makes me very proud.

Last year was marked by the Super League case. How do you view this event today, a few months apart??

That was just one of the many crises we have faced in recent years. It was an idea that goes against the very essence of football. European football is much more than business, as some people shallowly see it. You cannot ignore more than 160 years of football history and philosophy. You cannot treat fans as customers. No wonder the revolt across Europe was so strong and vocal. Football belongs to players and fans, and their heartfelt reactions quickly spread from the streets and stadiums across the entire world of football. Within minutes, the ill-constructed house of cards started to collapse.

What have you learned from that crisis?

The most valuable lesson that we all have learned is that football is not for sale. The game belongs to all of us, genuine football fans, and its roots are too deep in the core of European culture and identity to be taken away by anyone.
The second lesson is about unity. When the European football family stands together, it should fear no one. If there is no enemy within, the enemy on the outside can do us no harm.

The question may sound banal, but what is football for you?

You can rarely find a game so simple and yet so complex in its understanding and philosophy. Like our planet, the ball keeps rolling year after year, giving us unique memories and emotions while offering valuable moral lessons on duty, teamwork and self-awareness. It is truly a school of life.

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