Lawyer Aleksander Ceferin comes from nowhere to score Uefa top job
Uefa will be a new test of his taste for adventure and skills in keeping calm as it seeks to overcome the shock of losing ex-leader Michel Platini, implicated in Fifa’s corruption scandals, and facing challenges to its prized Champions League.football Updated: Sep 14, 2016 17:55 IST
New Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has been a high-profile lawyer and likes to take a risk but had no record in football until he took over Slovenia’s football federation in 2011.
The 48-year-old has often appeared on Slovenian television speaking for high-profile defendants represented by his family law firm. The lean, shaven-headed Ceferin said he has also crossed the Sahara five times, four in a car and once on a motorbike.
Uefa will be a new test of his taste for adventure and skills in keeping calm as it seeks to overcome the shock of losing ex-leader Michel Platini, implicated in Fifa’s corruption scandals, and facing challenges to its prized Champions League.
Ceferin surprised people when he took over the presidency of Slovenia’s football association, the NZS, in 2011 and quickly joined Fifa’s disciplinary committee and Uefa’s legal committee.
He secured an overwhelming victory over Dutch rival Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13 in Wednesday’s vote to head the world’s most important regional football confederation.
“People trust me,” he told a press conference when asked about his meteoric rise in recent months and his backers. “Nobody from behind the scenes can have 42 votes from all across Europe.”
Much of that support came from smaller European countries who feel football power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of big clubs in England, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Besides reorganising the NZS, Ceferin is also credited with bringing together the former Yugoslavian republics in 2015 to make them a football politics bloc.
New blood for Uefa
“I was the first to bring to the same table the national associations of the former state (Yugoslavia), that we adopted a common positions and presented them to Uefa and by doing so improved our reputation within Uefa,” he told state television in a recent interview.
Ceferin only emerged in international sports in June when he announced his bid to become Uefa president with the backing of over a dozen European associations ranging from Russia to Scandinavian countries.
The football associations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, with which he shares many ideas on reforming European football, urged him to run, he said.
“When that thing (scandal) happened to Michel Platini, the Scandinavians called me and told me ‘we believe you would be the perfect candidate for president’“, Ceferin told Ljubljana’s daily Delo.
Platini, who only officially resigned in May, had not been in the post since October last year over revelations of a $2 million payment from Fifa in 2011 for work carried out a decade earlier.
After the Scandinavian call, Ceferin could not turn back and says he has even paid for almost one hundred flights to lobby for support with national associations.
“I’m little known in these circles so I have to introduce myself to each one of them,” Ceferin said recently.
“People want changes, they want a younger man with new ideas who has not been around since forever,” Ceferin added.
As a lawyer, he has cautiously abstained from criticising the handling of Uefa’s affairs but this month he lost his temper when a Norwegian paper accused him of being “the (Fifa) president’s man” in the race, an allegation he attributed to his main rival, the Dutch Michael van Praag.
“You can judge yourself who’s using the old methods. The one that meets football associations and presents them his programme to get their support or the one that invents stories to compromise the elections and desperately get at least some support,” Ceferin told Slovenian state media.