Aleksander Ceferin: The karate-kicking lawyer ready to clean up European football

Aleksander Ceferin becomes the new president of Uefa...but who is he?

Aleksander Ceferin has been elected as the new Uefa president (Getty)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rarely can there have been a less famous entrant into football's inner circle than Aleksander Ceferin, who was named Uefa's new president this morning.

Ceferin was overwhelmingly elected with 42 votes at Uefa's congress in Athens, succeeeding Michel Platini, whose reign was overshadowed by allegations of corruption.

In the wake of these allegations, many people have demanded a candidate with the courage and integrity to clean up football in Europe and around the world. Ceferin has certainly been keen to portray himself as such a figure during his election campaign.

In written answers to questions from Reuters, he promised to “work towards better protection and integrity of our sport by fighting against corruption and match-fixing, against doping and by ensuring a safe football environment for all participants."

He also stated his belief that he "can bring a new wind, new ideas and approaches which are necessary for a better role of the UEFA in further development of the European football."

During Platini's reign English clubs often complained of perceived bias against them, and may hope for better things under the new man. Yet Ceferin may be even harder on the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea than his predecessor - although continental rivals such as Barcelona and Real Madrid won't have it easy, either.

One of Ceferin's main hobby horses in recent months has been the power concentrated among Europe's richest clubs. Just yesterday he told the Associated Press that Uefa had caved in to its most powerful member federations - those from Spain, Germany, Italy, and England - and allowed them to take too many Champions League places.

Ceferin has also laughed off suggestions of a European Super League. The message is clear: all countries, and clubs, will have a say, and the big boys won't have it their own way. Perhaps this is why the English FA supported his election rival Michael van Praag.

Does Ceferin have the minerals to back up his words? Well the evidence certaintly suggests so. The head of the Football Association of Slovenia since 2011, he's also a lawyer, heading up one of the country's biggest legal firms. 

Away from work, the father-of-three is also a black belt in karate - so anyone who thinks he's a pushover is probably misguided.

Interestingly, the anti-corruption campaign being waged by world football's governing body, Fifa, is also in the hands of a Slovenian, Tomaz Vesel. So Ceferin will have a hugely powerful ally at the very top of world soccer - perhaps the two compatriots will become the 'Batman and Robin' of their sport's fight to rid itself of sleaze