UEFA president Michel Platini was in attendance as the new Dublin Arena opened its doors to international football for the first time with a friendly between the Republic of Ireland and Argentina on Wednesday night.
Having already visited Georgia and Moldova this week, Mr Platini travelled to see the new 50,000-capacity stadium – built on the site of the old Lansdowne Road at a cost of €410m – open for business ahead of an inaugural season which will conclude with the Arena hosting the UEFA Europa League final on Wednesday 18 May 2011.
Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney was thrilled to welcome Mr Platini to the celebration. "When he came in he didn't want to see the corporate boxes, he just wanted to see the pitch and the whole stadium," Delaney told UEFA.com. "Michel was here during the construction phase and he said during the Argentina game how much it had changed. He said it was a great stadium and he enjoyed the game too.
"[Ireland assistant manager] Marco Tardelli was out on the pitch when Michel came in and they greeted each other as they were team-mates at Juventus, so that was a nice moment for them, to meet in such a great venue. And Michel enjoyed meeting John Giles as they played against each other when Ireland beat France 1-0 at the old Lansdowne Road in 1977."
Tardelli was in charge of the team for Ireland's 1-0 defeat as manager Giovanni Trapattoni – a former coach of Mr Platini – was recovering in hospital after what the FAI confirmed was "a successful and straightforward minor surgical procedure". "Michel asked about Giovanni a lot," Delaney continued. "There wasn't an opportunity for him to visit Giovanni because he came in late on Wednesday and had to leave early on Thursday, but he sent his wishes through Marco Tardelli and he was glad to hear that Giovanni will be back in action very soon."
The Dublin Arena will stage all of Ireland's home UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers, including three – against Andorra (September), Russia (October) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (March) – before the city hosts its first European club final when the UEFA Europa League concludes at the Ballsbridge venue in nine months' time.