Platini hails new European unity

ZAGREB - Uefa president Michel Platini said yesterday that a new spirit of unity in European football and a renewed atmosphere of respect were the highlights of his first year in office.

Platini, elected president a year ago in Dusseldorf, opened the 32nd Uefa Congress in the Croatian capital and told delegates from the 53 member associations that the achievements of the past year were "almost unhoped for".

"My hope when I was elected was to reunify football in Europe. It was high time to stop the quarrelling and to show respect for all members of the football family.

"It was time to stop tearing each other apart and making out that we could not understand each other."

The most significant development of the past 12 months towards that goal followed a plea by Platini at Uefa's extraordinary congress in Zurich last May.

"When I asked the big clubs to abandon elitism it was a friendly piece of advice and not an ultimatum. European football had become a bit schizophrenic in its structure.

"Clubs now recognise the importance of national teams. If players are the soul of football, then clubs are the heart of football. Uefa is no longer isolated in its ivory tower. My aim continues to be to unite football so that all members can be heard and feel respected."

The major logistical developments have been the setting up of the new Professional Football Strategy Council involving the national associations, leagues, players and clubs.

This month's agreement between Uefa, Fifa and more than 100 clubs from Uefa to create a new European Club Association will have a far-reaching impact, Platini said. - Reuters