The Slovenian lawyer was recently elected for a new term as head of the Union of European Football Associations at the UEFA Congress in Lisbon. Čeferin, who won his first mandate on the 14th of September 2016, will lead the continental umbrella body until 2027, after his new mandate was confirmed at the UEFA summit. The vote was a mere formality, as the 55-year-old was the only candidate.
Aleksander Čeferin is known as a cosmopolitan in the world, but in domestic circles, he is just one of the predictable politicians of the transitional left. His latest escapade in the domestic political pool – insulting to all Slovenians – was his statement that “the locals, whose furthest travel at their own expenses was to Klagenfurt or Trieste, think that everyone’s ultimate wish is to go into Slovenian politics.”
We all know that with this statement, Čeferin was responding to rumours that he would return to politics when the European football establishment had had enough of him. When he saw his position was endangered, he spent months painstakingly building up his political image and his work in the hijacked Slovenian media – not a day went by in the 2020-2022 period without his forcibly smiling face appearing on the front page, backed up by some pithy, cynical statement against the right-wing government of the time. It was very clear that he was preparing for the elections – either on his own or through his lackeys (Tomaž Vesel).
Then everything changed when his position at UEFA stabilised (read: when the gentlemen at UEFA could not find a good candidate to replace him). This is also why it suddenly became a taboo topic to talk about his political career on the sunny side of the Alps and why he now has to insult all Slovenians, saying what petty bourgeois people we are, that we want to place him, a cosmopolitan, in the domestic “cesspit.” His disgraceful statements were, of course, eagerly picked up by the Slovenian media, especially Odlazek’s media network. They were happy to pick up his words and spread them through their network of connected media – not realising that Čeferin was actually insulting all Slovenians with his statement.
And let’s not forget that even after the temporary end of his “political career”, he canvassed for the then-candidate for President of the Republic – Nataša Pirc Musar and took a photo with her in his capacity as President of UEFA. Čeferin had already interfered in Slovenian political affairs during the Janša government’s term and the epidemic, but by publicly supporting the presidential candidate Pirc Musar, he finally broke through the bottom. We have thus become a true Balkan state, where the only moral constraints are family and friendship ties.
After the chaotic organisation of last year’s Champions League final, which not only started 37 minutes later than it should have, but also with the intervention of the police, many labelled the organisation “unworthy of a Champions League final.” The logical and expected thing would be for the UEFA leadership, i.e., President Aleksander Čeferin, to take responsibility, but he passed the blame to the European Football Association (UEFA), saying that it was responsible for the security lapses that almost led to a disaster at the 2022 Champions League final in Paris between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Personnel moves reminiscent of Slovenia
Back then, the United Kingdom media outlets wrote about Željko Pavlica, UEFA’s head of security. English journalists pointed out that he had presided over three chaotic grand finals in the 14 months since he took up the post, which was not open to public tender. He allegedly took the post thanks to his close friendship with Aleksander Čeferin, and after three chaotic finals, some believed that both should have resigned. Pavlica was thus involved in three events that turned into a disaster, namely the 2021 European Championship final, in which the hooligans resisted, and the organisers were lucky that no one died. The second event was the Europa League final in 2022, when the stadium staff confiscated medicines and water in the heat, the taps ran dry, and the concessionaires ran out of supplies, but fortunately, there were no fatalities. More recently, we witnessed the last final of the 2022 Champions League, when fans were hit with sticks, crushed, robbed and drowned in tear gas, fortunately again without fatalities. Many accuse Pavlica of anything but inconsistency.
However, Pavlica was not the first to be accused of nepotism because of his acquaintance with Čeferin. When Čeferin took over as President, the Guardian reported that many involved in European football expressed concerns about his leadership. He was described as autocratic, and his personal alliances were said to go beyond the professionalism of this prestigious institution. Namely, Čeferin’s choice of Luka Zajc for the head of the President’s Office caused quite a stir, as he was also considered by many to be unqualified for such a high-ranking position. Zajc, formerly UEFA’s head of corporate affairs, was also a criminal lawyer, and a partner in Čeferin’s law firm, which was founded in Ljubljana by Aleksander’s father – Peter Čeferin. Aleksander Čeferin is said to have initially had misgivings about his senior position, which may be confirmed by the fact that shortly after his arrival, highly qualified and experienced people started leaving, including Alex Phillips, one of the relatively few British officials, who was the head of governance and compliance back then.
Čeferin will have to take back his words
So Čeferin will certainly not be in Slovenian politics for at least another five years. However, sooner or later, his European jet setting will be over. And what then? Then he will only be able to continue as Prime Minister of the backward country he is mocking today. We will have to take back his words, and we should remind him of what he said in 2027, when he will surely be running for the position of the first of the Slovenian socialists.