Boban, Figo and other stars play a memorable match in Split – the UEFA president praises Croatia and singles out one man in particular
The ceremonial academy, which took place at the Croatian Home in Split, on Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the Plazma Youth Sports Games, in which over two million children from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have taken part so far.
The president of UEFA, Aleksander Čeferin, who is also the ambassador of these games, was also present at the event, among other dignitaries. On the occasion, Mr Čeferin was given an award.
In his speech, Mr Čeferin underlined an important role that Zdravko Marić, the Games’ initiator and organizer, played.
“If there were more people in the world like Zdravko Marić and the Sports Games’ team, the world would be much more beautiful,” Mr Čeferin said in a short address.
In a statement for the media after the ceremony, he pointed out that he was delighted with today’s event in Split and with what Zdravko Marić and his team were doing.
“Sport wins, sport is love, unity and respect for other and different people,” Mr Čeferin said.
He added that he, as the president of UEFA, will continue to help the Youth Sports Games.
Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, who was present in the capacity of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s envoy, told reporters that the Youth Sports Games were a great event dedicated to young people.
“It is important to work with children and we must separate them as much as possible from mobile phones and computers so they can engage in sports and adopt healthy lifestyles,” Mr Božinović said.
Addressing the guests at the Ceremony he also pointed out that the Youth Sports Games have become a ‘widely recognizable brand.’
“These games spread humanism, tolerance and respect for diversity,” said Mr Božinović, who was also presented with a special gift as a friend and supporter of the Sports Games.
Serbian envoy Vanja Udovičić told reporters that Serbia supported these games, which aim to achieve “regional reconciliation, but also send out a strong message that it is important to play sports.”
“It is important to understand the past, but to be aware of the prosperity and future of this region,” Mr. Udovičić said.
At the ceremonial academy, awards were also given to the ambassadors of these games: Johannes Hahn, the European Commission Commissioner for Budget and Administration, the celebrated Real Madrid player, Predrag Mijatović and the sponsors of the games.
Welcoming those present in a short address, the Mayor of Split, Ivica Puljak, pointed out that Split was a city synonymous sports that breeds sports champions.
The head coach of the Croatian football team, Zlatko Dalić, also attended the ceremonial academy.
A 15-minute documentary about the 25-year history of the Youth Sports Games was shown. The documentary also showcases a statement by the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, in which he said that the founder of the Youth Sports Games, Zdravko Marić deserved the Nobel Prize.
‘It’s not just about sports, but also about giving children the opportunity to feel what it’s like to win, but also to lose, and how to make new friendships across borders, which will, I hope, make a great contribution to a more peaceful environment and the future development of the region. It’s great that we have leaders who have felt what it’s like to play against colleagues from other countries, who have different worldviews and are of different religions. I am honoured and grateful to have been a part of this initiative and I can only promise that in the future, I will do everything in my power to support it and contribute to its expansion to other countries in the region and beyond,” Mr Hahn said, addressing the media.
The ceremony was attended, among others, by the famous football players Zvonimir Boban, Luis Figo, Fernando Ruiz Hierro, Florent Johan Malouda, Maxwell Scherrer and Cabelino Andrade, who, along with Dario Srna, Mario Stanić, Predrag Mijatović, Johannes Hahn and Aleksander Čeferin, made a team of world football stars and ambassadors of the Youth Sports Games.
After the ceremony at Prokurative in Split, they played a show match against a team of children participating in the games. The referees of that match were Dino Rađa and the celebrated Italian football referee Roberto Rosetti.