UEFA EURO 2008™will be a chance for one of the 16 finalists to cover themselves in glory, but a smooth tournament for all those heading to Austria and Switzerland this summer will be down - in part - to the work of the UEFA National Team Competitions Committee.
Prepare and propose
"Our committee is for the national team competitions, that is to say the European championships for the senior teams and the Under-21s," explained chairman Gilberto Madaíl, a member of UEFA's Executive Committee. "The main objective is to prepare things and put forward our opinions so that the Executive Committee has all the information it needs when decisions have to be made."
With clubs investing millions to acquire the planet's top players, national teams have often had to strive to ensure they have the best squad possible for tournaments. However, recent agreements, such as financial contributions for player participation in UEFA European Championships and FIFA World Cups, subject to the approval of their respective bodies, have brought the two sides closer together - something which has pleased the committee.
'Protect national sides'
"We have to protect national teams, because - while the club competitions are fantastic - I think there's nothing to compare to a world or European championship," Madaíl explained. "The national teams put a whole country in the limelight. As a result of that, we have to do everything we can to help the national associations, so that the national teams are as competitive as possible."
Central to the committee's work is the guidance they offer to the UEFA Executive Committee on potential host countries for international tournaments. However, before they give their opinions, they carefully scrutinise each individual bid to see whether they stand up to an exhaustive set of criteria. "It's a complete dossier, which covers almost every aspect of organising a tournament, such as a European championship, as it is one of the biggest sporting events in the world," explained Madaíl. "But even for the other UEFA competitions, we need guarantees and conditions to ensure the prestige of European football."
As chairman of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) since 1996, Mr Madaíl has played a significant role in developing club and national team football in his country. He was instrumental as Portugal earned the right to host UEFA EURO 2004™ a tournament from which two memories remain vivid in his mind.
"The first is when we were named as the organisers of the tournament, as no-one believed Portugal could win at that time. The other is the day of the final," said Madaíl, who saw Portugal pipped to the Henri Delaunay trophy by Greece. "The first memory was very good, the latter was not a nightmare, but it is a bad memory. I only say 'bad', because we reached the final, which was an achievement. But we lost, and that was very painful."
Portugal will have a chance to go one better this summer as they and 14 other countries hope to end Greece's reign as European champions at UEFA EURO 2008™. Madaíl said he was looking forward to the start of the tournament, but has just one concern before co-hosts Switzerland kick off the competition against the Czech Republic in Basel on 7 June. "I just hope the weather is going to be good, because that is very important for the competition to be a success," he said.
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