THE Duke of Cambridge said London’s staging of the Champions League final would inspire a generation through its “excellence” as he welcomed delegates to Uefa’s 37th annual congress.
William declared himself “first and foremost” a football fan as he gave the opening speech at the annual conference of European football’s governing body.
Tomorrow, Wembley Stadium will host the showpiece final of Europe’s premier competition between Germany’s two leading teams, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of English football’s governing body the Football Association (FA), joked about who he thought would win the eagerly anticipated final.
Speaking at central London’s Grosvenor House hotel he told delegates: “It is a great honour for us, the English FA, to host not just this prestigious congress, but of course - the real excitement - tomorrow’s Champions League final.
“My money is on Bayern Munich and two-nil. To host these events during our 150th anniversary year is truly special.”
He went onto say: “Events like tomorrow’s match are hugely important because they inspire through their excellence.
“But what really counts is the work you all do at a grassroots level - investing in facilities; training coaches; and addressing discrimination to make the game open to everyone.
“I know some of these issues are on your agenda today, and I welcome Uefa’s determination to continue to improve European football for all.”
Before making his address William had a private meeting with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Uefa president Michel Platini and FA chairman David Bernstein. It is likely to be the first time the Duke has met Blatter since he played a crucial role in England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup, joining a delegation in Switzerland in 2010 which included David Cameron and David Beckham, but ultimately failed.
William, who became FA president in 2006, made reference to the 150th anniversary of the formation of the FA, celebrated this year, in his speech.
Ebenezer Morley, a solicitor and sportsman living in Barnes in south-west London, was the driving force behind a meeting in London on October 26, 1863 that led to the establishment of a governing body for English football.
The lawyer, who formed Barnes football club the previous year, believed the game should have a set of rules in the same way that the MCC had for cricket.
The Duke, who is an avid fan of the premier league team Aston Villa, said: “The rules of association football were drafted 150 years ago in a London pub very close to where we meet today.
“As you know, we English have a love affair with both football and our pubs, so it’s no surprise that one helped create the other. Those association football rules have spawned a game loved by the world, and it is wonderful that so many nations can be here together to celebrate its progress.
“Of course, in London, we were fortunate recently to experience the amazingly positive impact that elite sport can have. London 2012 was an Olympics with legacy at its heart - it set out to inspire a generation through the excellence of its competition.
“I am delighted to see that Uefa are determined along the same path. The investment by you in community facilities here in London, and the creation of a fans zone within the Olympic Park that will bring the excitement of the final to the wider public, demonstrate a commitment to deliver a lasting legacy for London from this weekend’s event.”
He concluded with the words: “What unites us all as 53 different nations is our love of a game that crosses boundaries.
“Wherever each one of us has come from to be here today, we are all first and foremost fans - and it is in the spirit of one football fan to another that I welcome you to London.”
Before leaving the stage Platini presented him with a football signed by 11 top players from across Europe who have appeared in an anti-racism video.
He also received a miniature ball - a gift for his baby which is due in mid-July.