'Help dreams come true' - that is the message given by UEFA to the coaches and officials involved in the youth football sector, who are responsible for turning today's talents into tomorrow's heroes.
Develop the stars
The UEFA Jubilee seminar on youth football closed at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland on Saturday with the call for youth football structures and coaching standards to be continually improved and fine-tuned throughout Europe, to give talented young players the best possible opportunity to achieve their dream and become the stars of the future.
"All of us have a challenge to develop our young talents," said UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh. "The contributions to this can come from all sorts of sources - the clubs, coaches, parents, administrators. In 50 years, when UEFA celebrates its centenary, let's hope that the football leaders of the time praise the officials, administrators and coaches of our generation as visionaries."
National youth coaches and youth experts from UEFA's 52 member associations identified a number of key objectives for the future, as well as the main problems facing European youth football at the present time. They expressed concern at the role of agents in youth football and their way of handling situations with young players, the lack of facilities in some countries, and the difficulties for young players to break through into club first teams as a result of the number of foreign players being recruited by the clubs.
Support was forthcoming in discussions for UEFA's recent proposals for an increase in the number of home-grown players in club teams. One of the aims of the proposals, issued earlier this month, is to foster the development of young players. In addition, Europe's football associations were urged to keep improving the quality of coach education, thereby producing better coaches who, in turn, will help breed top-quality football players for the coming years.
Giving children a chance
Countries were urged to set up as many mini-pitches and artificial turf playing surfaces as possible, with a view to helping children develop the basic skills to become good football players. "We must give our children the best chance to express themselves and bring out their creativity and joy of football on quality playing surfaces," said Jean-Pierre Escalettes, a member of UEFA's Youth and Amateur Football Committee.
Schools and academies
Clubs of all levels should be urged to set up football schools to train youngsters, while players of talent should also been given the chance to flourish even further in specialist football academies. Youth players, the seminar heard, could also be given increased lifestyle and 'spiritual' coaching to warn them, for example, against the dangers of doping or other damaging influences.
The intensive promotion of youth football is seen as another vital step for the future, to attract players, coaches and referees to the game, and stimulate the interest of the general public in the sport. Increased media coverage of the youth game and active co-operation with sponsors, schools and communities are considered as essential objectives in strengthening football's roots at youth and grassroots level.
The seminar was held to coincide with this weekend's final of the current UEFA European Under-19 Championship between Spain and Turkey at the Colovray Stadium opposite UEFA's headquarters in Nyon. Spain won 1-0 after a last-gasp goal from Borja Valero.