Youth football took centre stage on the eve of the UEFA Europa League final as UEFA President Michel Platini and showpiece ambassador Patrick Kluivert opened a mini-pitch before attending the finish of a grassroots tournament.
Located in Kramatweg – a suburb just east of Amsterdam city centre – the pitch was funded by UEFA's grassroots programme to mark the match between Chelsea FC and SL Benfica as well as next Wednesday's UEFA Grassroots Day. An old playground has been transformed into a 21m x 37m surface surrounded by special low-noise fencing.
The pitch was unveiled by Mr Platini together with Kluivert and Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) president Michael van Praag. Several lucky children, separated into 'Team Platini' and 'Team Kluivert', from the district were the first to try out the new surface in a game in which disabled youngsters from the Only Friends organisation also took part.
"It is our goal, as UEFA and the KNVB, to take care of these young players because they are the future," said Mr Platini. "I am very happy that we can give this pitch to the children as part of the Europa League final played in Amsterdam."
Former AFC Ajax forward Kluivert added: "It is great for the boys and girls from this neighbourhood to be able to play on a pitch like this. In my day we had to play on stone, so this is much better."
Kluivert held some coaching clinics on the sidelines while Mr Platini watched the match. The dignitaries then made the short journey south to Olympia Plein for the conclusion to a major grassroots programme organised by the KNVB. The festival, which had started with 3,000 children from local primary schools, was whittled down to today's semi-finals and final.
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