UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino joined the football family in heralding a new UEFA Champions League campaign – highlighting the magic and global attraction of the massively popular competition.
"This season, the magic will be no different," he told the audience at the group-stage draw ceremony in Monaco. "Over a long and challenging campaign, the clubs taking part will be striving to write their names in European football's rich history.
"I am sure that everyone is looking forward with great anticipation to a season of unforgettable excitement in the UEFA Champions League," he added. "I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the clubs which have qualified for the group stage of this season's competition ... and a special warm welcome is due to FC Astana who are the first club from Kazakhstan to reach the group stage.
"I know [the clubs] all have special hopes to enjoy a successful UEFA Champions League adventure over the coming months," Mr Infantino continued. "The dream is of course for all of you to lift the famous trophy at the final in the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan next spring."
The UEFA General Secretary reflected on what he called the UEFA Champions League's "unique and magnificent history, with brilliant teams, inspirational players and memorable matches.
"We will see spectacular goals, wonderful individual displays, gripping moments of drama – all of which will serve to remind us why the UEFA Champions League is the competition that all the stars want to play in, and why this unique trophy is the one that all stars want to hold."
Mr Infantino concluded by underlining the competition's magnetic appeal. "The UEFA Champions League enjoys a truly amazing global reach," he said. "Last season's competition and, in particular, the final in Berlin captivated the world.
"The match reached over 400 million TV viewers worldwide, in over 200 territories, confirming its status as the world’s most watched annual sporting event. As you can see, the fans are really passionate about the UEFA Champions League."
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