Former Poland coach Jerzy Engel has hailed the improvements his country's national association has made with its grassroots programme as "a massive victory for Polish youth football".
The Polish Football Federation (PZPN) was awarded its first star in the UEFA Grassroots Charter in March 2010 and Engel is hopeful the PZPN can continue its good work to obtain further recognition from European football's governing body.
"About 100,000 children a year participate in the tournaments we organise," Engel told UEFA.com. "Hence it is a massive victory for Polish youth football, all under the PZPN's supervision, and also thanks to UEFA. They gave us the directions of development, they also give stars now. Everyone is trying to get as many stars as possible, because it means getting more support from UEFA. I hope Poland will get a second and then a third star. Then we will say we are satisfied with the grassroots in Poland."
The PZPN has been busy planning its activities for UEFA Grassroots Day with Engel looking to replicate the success of last year's inaugural event. "The Grassroots Day was a big success for youth football last year," he said. "There were eight wonderful events in eight different towns in Poland and they were all very successful. It was organised in 25-30 towns this year. It is getting bigger, little by little, step by step.
"Last year Grassroots Day gave a lot of joy to every participant. Not only on the pitch, where there were a lot of games and the kids had fun, but it also gave a lot of fun to those who organised it. It is similar this year, more and more people and more crowds. More people will want to be involved directly in something that can help amateur football in Poland to develop. Grassroots is about getting across to everyone who wants to play football."
Engel, who was in Nyon at the start of May as part of a new coach education student exchange project being piloted by UEFA, was Poland coach from 2000 to 2002 and in the lead-up to the country's co-hosting of UEFA EURO 2012 has a role as a grassroots ambassador for the PZPN.
"I visit the places where the grassroots events are organised and I explain its ideas to everyone," he added. "Not everyone in Poland knows what grassroots actually is. There have even been situations where presidents of some Polish cities did not want to be involved, as they didn't know what it was and how it could develop. They simply wanted to stay away. But we raise awareness that football and grassroots for children, for the youngest ones and for the less able, is actually something fantastic and it can have some positive results."
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