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UEFA has emphasised the fundamental role that grassroots football plays within the wider game as the build-up continues to UEFA Grassroots Day on 19 May.
In his editorial in the latest edition of the UEFA Grassroots Newsletter, UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh underlines the significance of holding the pan-European event just three days before the creme de la creme of the professional game contest the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid.
"Placing the Grassroots Day in juxtaposition with the professional showcase match is significant and deliberate because, without the grassroots game, top football would wither and die," he wrote. "It is also true that the superstars and the top clubs stimulate the next generation of players, coaches, referees, officials and fans, and a strong link between the elite and the grassroots has enormous benefits for both levels of football and, consequently, the game in general."
The initiative will allow UEFA's 53 member associations to exhibit their grassroots work, while UEFA will lend support in the form of equipment, attendance certificates and T-shirts, as well as publicising the efforts made by the associations to promote and develop the game at that level.
Associations will also be asked to suggest proposals for special UEFA awards covering three categories – best grassroots leader, best grassroots project and best grassroots club. The UEFA Executive Committee will decide who picks up the awards, which honour "those whose exceptional work in grassroots football deserves recognition", Roxburgh explained.
UEFA.com will also play an integral role, having already launched a website dedicated to the event: uefagrassrootsday.com. The website's '100 days to go' countdown got under way in early February, and while news articles will chart the latest developments, educational material will also be available. "Specially designed lessons, aimed at youngsters between 10 and 14 years old, on the themes of Winning and Losing and Teamwork will be created," wrote Roxburgh. "It is hoped that parents and teachers will find the material useful for engaging youngsters in discussions about issues which can have an impact on their personal development."
With all eyes on Madrid for the UEFA Champions League final on 22 May, UEFA president Michel Platini will be in the Spanish capital for UEFA Grassroots Day. He will present a new grassroots mini-pitch to the mayor of the city before a press conference will detail activities happening across Europe. UEFA grassroots ambassadors – recently retired top players – will give their personal endorsements of the grassroots game in which they started their journeys to stardom.
"Just as football begins in its grassroots, so the build-up to the first Saturday night UEFA Champions League final will commence with grassroots action," Roxburgh wrote. "Following the UEFA Grassroots Day on the Wednesday, the UEFA Women's Champions League final will take place on the Thursday evening. Two days later, Europe's showpiece for professional clubs will provide the icing on the cake, and it will be appropriate to remind ourselves during that week that grassroots football is the cake."
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