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The 2014 General Assembly of FIFPro Division Europe ended on a special note as the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, welcomed a group of FIFPro representatives to his official residence in the lush surroundings of Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin.

The Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland (PFAI) hosted a two-day event in the Irish capital which brought together all 29 of FIFPro's European member countries to discuss a variety of issues affecting professional footballers.

Bobby Barnes, President of FIFPro Division Europe, presented President Higgins with a silver platter inscribed with details marking the occasion, and a signed shirt from World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.

Among the guests were PFAI representatives Stephen McGuinness, Ollie Cahill and Stuart Gilhooly, FIFPro Europe board member Mads Øland and the President of the Italian players' association (AIC) Damiano Tommasi.

After the introductions and presentations, the group sat down to discuss the major issues facing football both domestically and in Europe. President Higgins displayed an intimate understanding of the issues having studied the agenda items covered during the General Assembly, including FIFPro's challenge to reform the transfer system.

The conversation ranged from contractual issues in Irish football and Tommasi's relationship with former Irish national team manager Giovanni Trapattoni, to the President's recently declared support for England in the upcoming World Cup.

Afterwards, Barnes said, "So refreshing to speak to a politician with a genuine love and knowledge of the game, from the grassroots right up to the elite end. It was a great honour for FIFPro to be invited to the Presidential residence."

PFAI General Secretary McGuinness said, "It was a real privilege for us to be hosted by the President at his home. He is a regular visitor at League of Ireland games and has been a great supporter of domestic football for many years."

"President Higgins showed great interest in all of the issues that we have been dealing with at FIFPro and in the game on this island. It was great to be able to bring our visitors to meet our country's President and have such a genuine, informed discussion."

McGuiness added, "Overall, the General Assembly was a big success from our point of view. When Bobby Barnes, who is a great friend of ours and one of the leading football union representatives in the world, asked us to host, we didn't hesitate to agree. We were determined to showcase our country and present Dublin in the best light possible. We hope the other delegates found it as enjoyable and informative as we did."

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Stuart Gilhooly, Ollie Cahill, President Michael D. Higgins, Bobby Barnes,
Damiano Tomassi, Mads Øland and Stephen McGuinness
(All photos by Gerrard McGuinness/Elite Irish Sports Photography)