Around 200 youngsters have been given the chance to show off their skills in two specially arranged technical sessions in conjunction with the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship.
Boys and girls aged between five and 14 from summer football camps, youth clubs and clubs for girls in the Swiss cantons of Vaud, Geneva and Fribourg took part in activities lasting over 100 minutes prior to Thursday's semi-final matches at the Stade Colovray, which is adjacent to UEFA headquarters in Nyon. The sessions were organised by UEFA in conjunction with the cantonal football associations in Vaud (ACVF) and Geneva (ACGF).
The sessions, each involving around 100 children, included eight different skills stations spread across the pitch. The youngsters were able to work on various different aspects of their game, with the emphasis on fun throughout.
The skills stations included foot tennis, passing and shooting, small-sided matches, ball juggling and co-ordination, with each child spending ten minutes at each activity before moving on to the next. The day was made even more memorable for those involved thanks to the participation of Swiss internationals Marie-Andrea Egli, Jennifer Oehrli, Rahel Graf and Noémie Beney.
"I find these sessions excellent, the children are very happy to be here and they're taking part with enthusiasm," said 26-year-old midfielder Beney, who has more than 40 caps. "It's also important for the international players to be present at an event like this, because it's an opportunity to show that Swiss women's football exists. The players also signed autographs, and youngsters stayed on to watch the semi-final matches.
"The children immediately pay more attention when they train with an international player. As soon as they see the national shirt, it's something important to them – they listen and they want to learn. When I was younger, girls didn't have the opportunity to take part in such sessions – either you practised with the boys or not at all. I played in the garden with my brothers."
An interested observer was Nestor Subiat, renowned Swiss international striker from the 1990s, who now runs football camps for children. He brought a group of youngsters to Nyon for the skills session. "It's a great idea by UEFA to hold these sessions," said Subiat, who enjoyed a splendid club career in Switzerland and France, while also featuring at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. "It's not only about technique, there are other messages that you can get across, such as camaraderie and the idea that playing football should be a pleasure.
"There are certain rules that you need to learn to be able to score goals, and to make choices. The youngsters listen all the time and they learn how to do things very quickly. You see them at the end of a week and they're doing what you've asked them to; they progress so quickly."
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