The exchange of technical expertise and know-how between UEFA's 53 member national associations – developed under the innovative UEFA Study Group Scheme – continues to progress, with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) staging a seminar on an area in which Spain has excelled in recent times: elite youth football.
The RFEF and its technical department, under the leadership of current European Under-19 champion coach Ginés Meléndez, played host to the associations of Poland, Russia and Ukraine to share their knowledge and experience. Many of the current crop of Spanish players who have enjoyed EURO and FIFA World Cup glory rose through the country's junior ranks.
The Study Group Scheme, an initiative of UEFA President Michel Platini, aims to facilitate a wider sharing of technical knowledge and to raise pan-European standards through, for example, visits by association specialists – with the help of UEFA funding – to gather technical tips in other associations, particularly their clubs. All UEFA member associations are involved, as associations visit one another to swap know-how, experience and best practice in coach education as well as youth, women's and grassroots football.
"We feel very honoured to cooperate with UEFA in the Study Group Scheme to explain the work we are doing in our football, not only at federation level, but also the excellent work done by Spanish clubs with respect to the coaches' education and development in the youth football sector," said Ángel María Villar Llona, RFEF president and UEFA third vice-president. "We will continue supporting this scheme as we consider it very positive and fruitful for all associations."
"It is a real honour for us to be able to contribute towards improving European football by means of these technical exchanges with all the UEFA member associations – and at the same time receive information from other federations to continue improving day by day," added Meléndez.
The guests were unanimous in their appreciation. "The information received on the organisation of player education in elite football clubs of world-wide reputation [Club Atlético de Madrid, Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Athletic Club] allows us to make progress in the activities of Ukrainian football academies and clubs," said Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) technical director Kostiantyn Vikhrov. "This exchange of experience between European countries will undoubtedly provide the perspective for improvements in professional coaching skills."
"The Russian delegation which participated in the Study Group Scheme [workshop] dedicated to elite youth football was very grateful to the Spanish federation and UEFA for the high level of organisation and contents of the workshop," the Russian Football Union (RFS) told UEFA. "The educational material supplied was certainly very useful for the improvement of the organisational and methodological work within elite youth football in Russia."
"This visit has given us valuable knowledge about the system and philosophy of UEFA's Study Group Scheme, the system and philosophy of selecting the best young Spanish players for the national youth teams, and the systems and philosophies of coaching the young players at the best Spanish clubs," said Polish Football Federation (PZPN) coach education head Piotr Maranda. "It also gave us a possibility to exchange ideas about youth coaching programmes with our colleagues from Ukraine and Russia."
"Interest in studying the work done in the various technical areas of the current European and world champions is high, and UEFA is very pleased that the Spanish FA opens its doors on regular basis," said UEFA's head of football education services Frank Ludolph. "The atmosphere of friendship and solidarity, combined this time with the cooperation of top Spanish clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético and Athletic, means that seminars in Spain are an ideal learning opportunity for our member associations."
Some 54 seminars are taking place during 2011/12, with the scheme being further expanded this season to include four pilot courses on goalkeeper coach education, in addition to the four staple subjects.
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