UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino has spoken of "the chance of glory for everyone" as teams strive to reach the group stages of this season's European club competitions.
Addressing the draws for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League play-offs at the House of European Football in Nyon on Friday, Mr Infantino welcomed the excitement already generated in the qualifying rounds of the two tournaments.
"This year's campaign is proving to be fascinating so far, because we are seeing representatives of some European countries participating in this stage of the competition for the very first time. A special mention to FC Shakhter Karagandy – the first Kazakh representatives to have come so far. This quite clearly reflects the sporting diversity of the UEFA Champions League and, more importantly, it provides ample proof that there is a chance of football glory for everyone."
Mr Infantino said the sides taking part in the UEFA Champions League play-offs would be eager for success over the two matches, knowing that victory would see them through to the group phase of European football's most prestigious club event – and an opportunity to create the headlines this coming autumn. "Their teams' performances on the pitch will be watched by thousands of fans in the stadiums and millions of viewers in front of their TV screens," the UEFA General Secretary reflected. "They will be contributing to the enduring appeal of the UEFA Champions League as a premier sporting spectacle."
Turning to the UEFA Europa League, Mr Infantino noted the fresh faces present for the play-offs, and their sense of anticipation at being so close to the group stage. "Along with some big footballing names who have already engraved their name on the trophy, there are new names from less well-known places that are dreaming of qualifying," he said.
"It is this variety of teams and countries, along with the sporting chance of progressing to the UEFA Europa League group stage, that drives the clubs on their quest for European success. Clubs now know that two positive results will put them into the group stage of a competition which has most certainly established itself as an attractive fixture on the European club football landscape.
"We had high hopes for the UEFA Europa League when the competition began at the start of the 2009/10 season, and I think I can say without any fear of contradiction that our expectations are being fulfilled," the UEFA General Secretary emphasised.
"The competition is making a positive impact, not only among the clubs that have taken part but also among the supporters, who are being treated to some high-quality entertainment. Let us hope that the new season brings us just as much excitement as before – and let me take this opportunity to wish you all the very best of luck in your forthcoming play-off matches."
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