After an encouraging start in the UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ preliminary round, Luxembourg's women's national team are making great progress.
Luxembourg played their first competitive games in a mini-tournament on home soil, and while they failed to earn a place in the qualifiers for the finals in Finland, four points taken from games against Slovakia, Malta and Lithuania saw them finish second in their section. With the team only really being founded in June 2003, such progress was impressive. Coach Romain Jean initially had a pool of just 100 players to pick from but the former CA Spora Luxemburg player now has a more healthy situation with 700 registered players in the small nation.
"Up to now, all our progress has been upwards," he said at the end of the mini-tournament, which opened with a dispiriting 4-0 defeat against Slovakia but eneded with a 4-0 win against Malta and a 1-1 draw against Lithuania. "This is vindication for women's football here." Jean gathered his players for ten days of training before the tournament, with the players who are still of school age being given special dispensation to swap lessons for training. Working players were asked to take unpaid leave, but moves are afoot to introduce sporting holidays for national team players.
The Grand Duchy's national team are already being offered the chance to gain further experience with offers of friendly games from both Malta and England, and with a domestic league system continuing to develop for women in Luxembourg, there is considerable potential for further improvement. Jean's next project is to get better facilities in place for young players, with girls still officially expected to play alongside men until they are 14. Sensibly, Jean wants all-girls teams from a younger age. "I am very excited, as are many others, about how much we can achieve," said the 48-year-old coach.
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