Ramos presents UEFA donation to ICRC

UEFA believes deeply in football’s power to help people rebuild their lives – and puts these convictions into practice in a long-standing partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

For the tenth successive year, UEFA has donated €100,000 to the ICRC for its rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan for landmine victims and people with other disabilities.

This year, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has lent crucial support to the programme and partnership, acting as a role model and transmitting his strong love of the game into the bargain.

Ramos presented the €100,000 donation to the ICRC’s regional director for Asia, Boris Michel, in the presence of UEFA Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee chairman Peter Gilliéron, ahead of Madrid’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 encounter with Napoli at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday.

The Spanish international received the most votes from fans in the UEFA.com users’ 2016 Team of the Year poll.

He brought delight to members of the Kabul rehabilitation centre’s football team by giving of his time to answer questions from players and explain what it takes to be a top player.

“The people benefiting from the ICRC programme in Afghanistan are an inspiration to us,” he said, “as they set an example of how to approach life in a positive manner despite the problems they face.”

The ICRC’s mission is to protect civilians in countries affected by war, and it has worked in partnership with UEFA since 1997.

The rehabilitation programme in Afghanistan includes the provision of artificial limbs, physiotherapy, vocational training and the chance to play and savour the joy of football in the rehabilitation centre’s football team.

“I would like to pay tribute to the ICRC, who have been working relentlessly to help landmine victims, many of whom are children,” said UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. “Their programme in Afghanistan, which has been in place for several years, shows that football can offer real hope in challenging times.

“I am glad UEFA can help this cause, and that the sport we love can have a positive impact on the rehabilitation process of so many people in this troubled region,” he added.

UEFA’s educational programme aims to look after tomorrow’s stars

Players from the youth teams of FC Barcelona, SL Benfica, Red Bull Salzburg and Real Madrid CF have been involved in perhaps the most important experience of their young careers as they are all aimed to win the Lennart Johansson trophy.

While participating in the Final Four of the UEFA Youth League in Nyon, the players have also been offered the opportunity to get some prized insight on the world of football from some of UEFA’s top personnel. The UEFA Educational programme on Saturday taught members of the four teams valuable lessons regarding how to conduct themselves on and off the pitch.

Pierluigi Collina, one of football’s most respected figures and UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer, passed on his knowledge to the youngsters. His principle task was to explain the laws of the game and how they are interpreted by match officials. However, he also gave the youth team players advice on how to conduct themselves on the pitch.

While players may prefer to let their feet do the talking, interaction with the media is becoming an absolute necessity for the modern footballer. One simple slip of the tongue or a Tweet that is misinterpreted can land a player in hot water with their club, national team or commercial partners. Pedro Pinto, who is the managing director of UEFA’s Communications department, offered his guidance to the young players on what to do when facing journalists eager for a story and how to manage their social media channels.

“In today’s world, practically every movement that sports athletes make is scrutinised and discussed around the world,” said Pinto. “It is imperative that young players learn how to deal with the media at a young age as positive communication can be greatly beneficial, but negative publicity could come back to haunt them later on in their careers.”

When people think of UEFA, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA EURO are two of the first things that come to mind. However, European football’s governing body does so much more than organising football matches.

Stéphane Anselmo, a senior Club Competitions manager, spoke about how UEFA invests over 80 percent of the money it earns back into football, as well as promoting the organisation’s key values, such as gender equality and inclusion, while reiterating that everyone has the right to be a part of football, irrespective of gender, creed, colour, ability or sexual orientation.

Rounding off the programme, a video was shown to educate players about UEFA’s stringent anti-doping rules. Players were reminded that if they were to give a positive drugs test, the chances are this would ruin their fledgling careers even before they could reach their full potential.

Only one club will be returning home with the Lennart Johansson trophy. However, all the players will have the chance to take back with them some valuable lessons both on and off the field of play, which will hopefully stand them in good stead for the rest of their careers.

Football’s top club competition (UEFA)

Although it was launched soon after UEFA’s first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, the European Champion Clubs’ Cup was not a UEFA initiative.

Football’s premier club competition, the European Champion Clubs’ Cup was launched soon after UEFA’s first Congress, held in Vienna on 2 March 1955, yet the competition was not a UEFA initiative.

Whereas many of UEFA’s founder members were more interested in establishing a national team competition, the French sports daily L’Equipe and its then-editor Gabriel Hanot were championing the cause for a Europe-wide club competition. Hanot, together with colleague Jacques Ferran, designed a blueprint for a challenge tournament to be played on Wednesdays under floodlights.

The tournament initiated by L’Equipe did not stipulate that the participating teams had to be champions of their country, but they invited clubs who they considered had the most fan appeal. Representatives of 16 sides were invited to meetings on 2 and 3 April 1955, and the L’Equipe rules were unanimously approved.

UEFA – which had been founded in June 1954 – reacted by contacting the world body FIFA, and the latter’s Executive Committee, meeting in London on 8 May 1955, authorised the new club competition under the condition that it was organised by UEFA and that the national associations concerned gave their consent to their clubs taking part. UEFA’s Executive Committee accepted the conditions laid down by FIFA and agreed to run the competition at its meeting on 21 June 1955.

The first European Champion Clubs’ Cup fixture was played in Lisbon as SC Portugal were held to a 3-3 draw by Partizan. The Yugoslavian side won the return leg in Belgrade 5-2 to advance to the next round.

Real Madrid immediately made the tournament their own by winning the first five finals. Since then, other clubs have also enjoyed fruitful runs in the competition with Ajax and Bayern München both completing three consecutive victories. However, no one club has been able to claim long-term domination. Ajax waited 22 years to add a fourth title to the hat-trick obtained in the early 1970s; Madrid’s triumph in 1998 was their first in 32 years; and Bayern’s penalty shoot-out success in Milan in 2001 ended a 26-year quest for their fourth crown.

Liverpool’s four victories between 1977 and 1984 deserve a mention as the English club landed the prize with essentially different teams. The Reds’ European pedigree also shone in 2005 when they battled back from 3-0 down to pip AC Milan on penalties in one of the competition’s most exciting finals.

Real Madrid, Milan and FC Barcelona have been the most successful sides in the UEFA Champions League era, the Spanish pair lifting the trophy four times apiece and the Rossoneri three. Madrid are also the most successful club overall with 11 triumphs, followed by seven for Milan, five for Barcelona, Bayern and Liverpool, then four for Ajax. Moreover, Madrid hold the record for final appearances with 13. Milan’s 2002/03 triumph came after a marathon 19 games from third qualifying round all the way to penalty shoot-out success over Juventus in the final.

The major turning point in the tournament’s evolution had come in the 1992/93 season when the UEFA Champions League, involving a group stage in addition to the traditional knockout elements, was officially inaugurated after a pilot round robin during the previous campaign. The popularity of the group phase means the competition has grown from eight to 32 teams with matches held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays across Europe.