The Slovak Football Association (SFZ) has hosted the first in a series of pilot international development tournaments with the support of UEFA's HatTrick assistance programme.
Boys' Under-16 teams from Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Poland challenged each other in an invigorating display of football's future talent in Senec. The Czech Republic finally emerged victorious on penalties against Slovenia at the end of an exciting final match.
The U17 girls' teams from Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy and Greece also produced a fine tournament at the same venue, at a short distance from the capital city Bratislava. Women's football is coming into its own and is gaining an ever-increasing following, which meant that this event was a perfect opportunity to see the young female players in action at an influential stage in their careers. The winners were Italy, who triumphed over Slovenia in the final.
All the young adults participating in this international development tournament demonstrated technical skill, determination and fair play. Each of them could be proud of their performance in representing their countries. Jozef Kliment, general secretary of the SFZ, said: "We welcomed the idea to organise this first pilot edition. The initial feedback from the participating teams and coaches is all very positive. We are delighted to host these young and gifted players, providing the opportunity to test their skills and experience on the pitch. It has been a pleasure to watch them perform to such a professional level."
This initiative is the first of six international development tournaments which will take place over the next three months. The tournaments are true learning experiences for the players – not just in fine-tuning skills through practice and guidance, but also in allowing them to appreciate an international and highly competitive environment. Each international development tournament has an independent technical representative onsite, and there is also access to a player tracking system for match review.
Ghenadie Scurtul, technical director of the Football Association of Moldova (FMF), was a key figure in Slovakia, acting as the technical representative onsite and encouraging open debate on technical issues between the coaches and teams. "This transparent approach to development really helps prepare the younger players for competition football at all levels," he said. "The players made every effort to perform as a team in formation, creating test combinations and demonstrating attacking football."
The next tournament will be held by the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) from 13 to 21 March. The U16 boys' lineup features Serbia, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria while the girls' U17 field comprises Serbia, FYROM, Bulgaria and Croatia.
Dates of the international development tournaments:
• Slovakia: 26 February–5 March
• Serbia: 13–21 March
• Georgia: 14–22 April
• Switzerland, UEFA HQ: 13–18 April
• Moldova: 30 April–8 May
• Lithuania: 22–30 May
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