Chief executive Kimmo J Lipponen is confident the Football Association of Finland (SPL-FBF) is on target to achieve its 2020 aims after announcing the latest stage of its plan up to 2013.
The SPL-FBF's long-term vision is to make it into the top ten at all levels of the game, including Under-21s and seniors. The most recent phase of that strategy, published last month, pays equal attention to long-term development from the grassroots upwards and achieving more immediate success at the elite level.
"The road to achieving it will be fascinating and challenging, and definitely worth travelling," Lipponen told UEFA.com. "We have broken down the road to 2020 into four-year cycles. It is very important to take care of the whole football pyramid, there is no long-term success at the top without taking care of the broad base. This requires high-quality coaching at all levels."
In terms of specific goals, last month's meeting outlined a wish to secure a 5% annual increase in the number of registered players in the country. "In grassroots football, we aim to broaden the base by attracting new participants to the game," said Lipponen. "At elite level, we want to define processes for talent development and establish the national training and research centre."
That elite level will soon be shorn of the likes of Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypiä – mainstays of the Finland national team for two decades. Though the future is in good hands, how does Lipponen think the team will cope in the immediate aftermath of their retirements? "Our youth sides have shown that new talent is on its way – some key players from the successful U21 team have already made their way into the squad," he said.
With the grassroots game in rude health, and the likes of Litmanen, Hyypiä and Hannu Tihinen soon in a position to share their "tremendous knowledge with the next generation", what lies in store for Finnish football? "The passion of the almost 500,000 Finns involved in football on a weekly basis will make sure the future will be bright," Lipponen concluded.
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