UEFA has donated a maxi-pitch to the Brussels district of Anderlecht to mark the first European Week of Sport and UEFA Grassroots Week, and we hear why it is so important.
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The maxi-pitch donated by UEFA to the Brussels district of Anderlecht was officially opened on Wednesday.
For many years UEFA has been donating maxi-pitches – two-thirds the size of a regular football field and designed for use in cramped urban areas – to the host cities of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League finals. To mark the first European Week of Sport, UEFA has aligned the dates of its own new Grassroots Week (replacing the former Grassroots Day held before the UEFA Champions League final) and donated a pitch to the home city of the European Commission, whose initiative the Week of Sport is.
UEFA.com spoke to those helping inaugurate the maxi-pitch ...
Local schoolboy Hamza Adrioueche, aged ten, the first to play on the pitch
It's my favourite sport. I've always liked it. From when I was a baby, I liked to play football. My father taught me and that's why I like football. I found [playing on the maxi-pitch] a lot of fun, it's great. After school we will come here and start to play.
Rudi Vervoort, minister-president of the government of the Brussels-Capital region
This is an important development in an urbanised space here in Anderlecht. Football is also a community game, open to everyone, the most popular sport, so it is good that it comes back to basics, to its deepest roots. There is this image of spectacular football with all the big stars – but there are big stars because young children started playing football one day. This development creates good conditions for children to play in. This is an initiative we have to happy about. It gives the kids the chance to dream, to realise a dream, and that's part of the magic of sport.
Mbo Mpenza, former Anderlecht and Belgium player
This is really great because it enables people to exercise. That's what we need, especially because football, as everybody knows, is sport No1. To be able to have a five-star pitch in a neighbourhood like Anderlecht is awesome. If UEFA gets involved with something, it means that it is important for UEFA. When UEFA does things like this, they do it properly. That's perhaps the reason there are so many people here today. This initiative allows people to practise and to use really good facilities.
You know I have kids and my kids never stay at home, they always want to play out. I think this is what we need, to have initiatives like this, so people are able to be active and we know that sport is so important in daily life and it prevents kids from bad behaviour outside sport.
François De Keersmaecker, Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB) president
This is a brilliant initiative. We are here in the centre of Europe, of Belgium, but in a very urbanised area, Anderlecht, part of Brussels. Playing football on the streets unfortunately is not possible here any more. So it is very important that youngsters from this neighbourhood – and there are huge numbers of them – are able to play football. So this is a gift from heaven.
We have a great responsibility to society. As an FA we have to take care to ensure these boys and girls are able to play football and are able to exercise. That is why this pitch is put in exactly the right place. And that is very important for us, a lot of resources are going into this. I think it is very important to give boys and girls this opportunity – not only to help them possibly make a profession out of this, but also because it's good exercise and that is very important."
Szabolcs Horváth, member of the cabinet of Tibor Navracsics, European commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport.
This is a very good example of how UEFA can support grassroots sports and the very important project of the European Commission to get people moving, to be active. This year we have the first European Week of Sport and the aim is to tackle a big challenge in European society – which is the lack of physical activity.
We have the support of European partners, among them UEFA, who have contributed to the success of the European Week of Sport – to pass on the message to get people moving. And now UEFA has provided the possibility to get people moving continuously. Because this [maxi-pitch] will stay here, it is not just a message, it is something really concrete, and we are very grateful for that.