The UEFA Champions League continues to write new chapters in football's rich history – and UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino has called for respect to prevail as a key emotion as this season's competition reaches its thrilling climax.
At the draw ceremony for the 2012/13 quarter-finals at the House of European Football in Nyon, Mr Infantino said that the competition had fostered an atmosphere of friendship among the teams and players taking part, and he expressed the hope that this feeling could be transmitted to the fans following their clubs along the UEFA Champions League road to the final in London on 25 May.
"The last round produced some outstanding matches and we saw 44 goals in the 16 games which were played," the UEFA General Secretary said. "But it is at this stage when an extra bit of spice is added to the draw, in that teams from the same national association can be drawn against each other.
"This means that we can see ties between teams who know each other extremely well – something which usually provides the ingredients for matches of extraordinary intensity," he added. "At the same time, I think that the idea of knowing each other well can equally be applied to many of the clubs and people who are in this room.
"Over the years, the UEFA Champions League has built up a sense of friendship – a truly European one – on the field. Even in such a competitive environment, we have all learned to work together to make the UEFA Champions League what it is – the best club competition in the world.
"But our social challenge – maybe I should say 'obligation'," Mr Infantino continued, "remains to transmit this sense of friendship to the fans. And to transmit it in exactly the same proportions. We don't want fans to be less competitive. We don't want them to dilute their sporting rivalries. But we want to encourage them to feel at ease with the supporters of their opponents; to respect them and, if possible, to forge links.
"The draw will provide us with a list of eight matches," the UEFA General Secretary concluded. "We would like to think that each of them will be played in an atmosphere where the visiting fans not only feel secure but also feel welcome. These matches are at the highest peak of club football and we need to achieve role-model status as hosts to fans who love the game and their club as much as we do.
"The other common denominator among the supporters and the club representatives in this room and back at home is the desire to make it all the way to Wembley Stadium and, if possible, to be crowned as kings of Europe. We are only a couple of months away from the final in London and this draw will take us a step nearer to knowing who will be there."
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