LJUBLJANA: New UEFA boss 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 his 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 increasingly concentrated in the hands of big clubs in England, Spain, Germany and Italy.
Besides reorganizing the NZS, Ceferin is also credited with bringing together the former Yugoslavian republics in 2015 to make them a football politics bloc.
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.
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.