Slovenia's Aleksander Ceferin has been elected as the new head of European football at an extraordinary congress in Athens. The 48-year-old lawyer, who will replace the disgraced Michel Platini as Uefa's seventh president, beat his only rival, Uefa "stalwart" Michael van Praag by 42 votes to 13. He will be the youngest ever president of the organisation, reports the Daily Telegraph.
"Not a household name by any means, Ceferin went from rank outsider to overwhelming favourite within a matter of months after securing support from Uefa's small and medium-sized member associations," says the paper.
The Slovenian football boss only took over as head of the Slovenian FA in 2011. He has said his three main priorities will be to introduce limits on how long officials can serve, tackle match fixing and make the bidding process for international tournaments more transparent. He is also opposed to the idea of spreading big tournaments across multiple countries, as will happen in 2020 when the Euros will be held in cities in 13 countries, with the final and semi-finals at Wembley.
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In his acceptance speech Ceferin said: "It's a great honour but, at the same time, great responsibility. It means a lot to me. It means my family is very proud about it. My small and beautiful Slovenia is very proud about it and I hope that, one day, you will also be proud of me."
But in the world of football governance things are rarely straightforward. And Ceferin has been accused of "being a puppet of new Fifa president Gianni Infantino", reports the Telegraph, although both men have dismissed such claims.
However, Marina Hyde of The Guardian is sceptical.
"Like Infantino, Ceferin has risen without trace, yet has beaten Michael van Praag of the Netherlands, whose outspoken criticism of Blatter over the past few years may be regarded as a blot on his company copybook," she writes. "Infantino has dismissed reports his staff lobbied for Ceferin, meaning it is entirely coincidental that his campaign was launched shortly after Infantino led a delegation to Slovenia to open a new national football centre."
Another "coincidental connection", she says, is the appointment of Tomaz Vesel – "another Slovenian whom Fifa just appointed to independently audit its annual income, and Infantino's salary and bonuses" – who plays for the same football team as Ceferin.
Even stranger, in the eyes of many, was the decision of Uefa to allow its deposed leader, Platini, who has been banned from football for four years, to make a farewell address to the congress as a "gesture of humanity".
"There had been fears he [would] launch an extensive defence of his record, but instead the vast majority of his speech was a florid eulogy of football's 'beauty' and 'universality', and praise for Uefa's work under his leadership," says the Daily Mail.
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