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The eagerly anticipated UEFA Grassroots Day, which will take place in Madrid in May, is a focal point of the latest edition of the UEFA Grassroots Newsletter.
Wednesday 19 May
Last May, at its meeting in Bucharest, UEFA's Executive Committee agreed that the run-up to the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League final, to be played on a Saturday for the first time, should feature an event to celebrate grassroots football across Europe. Consequently, the Wednesday before the final, 19 May, has been designated as UEFA Grassroots Day.
Strong roots, strong élite
UEFA Grassroots Day is seen as one of the important dates of the year within UEFA's hectic schedule. "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," writes UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh in his Grassroots Newsletter editorial column. "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 élite and the grassroots has enormous benefits for both levels of football and, consequently, the game in general.
Icing the cake
"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," Andy Roxburgh continues. "Recognising and celebrating grassroots football on UEFA's Grassroots Day is therefore something worth doing – an initiative which will be fully endorsed by those who carry the ball close to their heart."
The excellent youth work undertaken by one of UEFA's member associations, Switzerland, has reaped its rewards with the Swiss youngsters carrying off the FIFA U-17 World Cup in November. The UEFA Grassroots Newsletter interviews Hansruedi Hasler, until recently a key figure as Swiss Football Association technical director, and a crucial contributor to the country's football development. Hasler in particular highlights the tremendous growth of grassroots football in Switzerland.
The impressive grassroots work of another UEFA member, the German Football Association (DFB), comes under the spotlight. DFB president Theo Zwanziger underlines the DFB's stance; "If you try to play élite football against grassroots football, nobody benefits," he says. "So our philosophy is to derive momentum for grassroots projects from the élite competitions, and we try to emphasise that fun isn't individual – it involves families, neighbours and communities. We believe that grassroots football can be an integrating force which can add value to our society."
An article examines the progress of the UEFA Grassroots Charter, through which UEFA endorses national associations' grassroots schemes. "The UEFA Grassroots Charter is a powerful instrument in terms of stimulating national associations to implant and enhance their grassroots structures," the newsletter reports.
Study Group Scheme
UEFA's Study Group Scheme, a programme based on an initiative by UEFA President Michel Platini whereby national associations share technical know-how, is into its second season and proving to be a resounding success. "We will continue to refine and improve the scheme in coming seasons," comments Andy Roxburgh, "but based on reactions so far, we could say that if the project had been a film, it would have won an Oscar."
Add to this a look back at the sixth edition of UEFA's Summer of Grassroots Football – since the launch of the promotional campaign in 2004, more than 14 million participants have been involved – and the UEFA Grassroots Newsletter is a fascinating read for anyone who has football's interests at heart.
Click here to read the latest UEFA Grassroots Newsletter.
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