Georgian academy founder gains UEFA Grassroots Awards leader prize

Jessy Surmava’s work in establishing a football school for youngsters in western Georgia earned him recognition with the 2020 UEFA Grassroots Award for Best Grassroots Leader.

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UEFA chose to honour Jessy Surmava with its Best Grassroots Leader award for his vision and determination in establishing a football school in Martvili, a small town in Samegrelo province in western Georgia.

Surmava began planning his town’s first-ever football school in 2011 with the goal of increasing participation in football for children at a local level. To realise this vision, Surmava sought and obtained various government grants and, with the support of the local municipality, was able to secure a venue close to Martvili, which opened in January 2018.

Special focus: Developing football in the region

Jessy's work is backed by GFF president Levan Kobiashvili
Jessy's work is backed by GFF president Levan Kobiashvili

The Children’s Football Academy of Martvili holds training sessions at different venues across the region, where it is difficult for children to travel long distances. It runs a total of 12 teams that cater for up to 300 children in a region which has been lacking a strong grassroots infrastructure.

The school makes a significant contribution to the development of football in the region and it is a measure of its importance that Georgia’s Ministries of Sport and Infrastructure as well as the Georgian Football Federation all sent representatives to its opening two years ago.

On opening, Surmava’s academy signed a memorandum of co-operation with the reigning national champions Dinamo Tbilisi in the capital city, nearly 300km away.

In his own words: 'A big motivation and fuel for future projects'

"I would like to thank UEFA and all the people involved in the process for these Grassroots Awards," Jessy said. "It's not only an award for me, it's a big motivation and fuel to drive me for future projects. I will use this award to do more things, more activities, more projects.

"My persona will be stronger after this and I will try hard to be a role model for other guys like me in grassroots football.

"It plays an important role in [children's] personal development. Above all, they can live healthy lives. We can give hundreds and thousands of people a chance to adopt a healthy lifestyle. That’s crucial."

Kobiashvili and Jessy get behind UEFA's #WePlayStrong initiative to get girls playing football
Kobiashvili and Jessy get behind UEFA's #WePlayStrong initiative to get girls playing football

Levan Kobiashvili, president of the Georgian Football Federation and a former international star, is extremely proud of the coach.

"I wish we had people like Jessy in every region," he said. "Jessy is and has become an example to so many other people. This project has played a huge role in the sense that we have a lot more people, more children, involved today and more children play football than before."

Best Grassroots Leader 2020: Silver and bronze award winners

Silver: Brian Sloan (Northern Ireland)

Now in his 70s, Brian has devoted his life to grassroots football and, specifically, to Brookvale FC. Formed in the Bessbrook area of County Armagh during the troubles in Northern Ireland, Brookvale was and remains a huge part of the community. Brian has filled numerous roles there: chairman, coach, manager, grass cutter, money collector, bus driver and many more. Moreover, he has provided opportunities for young players seriously affected by the situation in Northern Ireland, using the power of sport to help bring together both sides of the community during fractious times.

Bronze: Klyuev Pavel Aleksandrovich (Russia)

Klyuev Pavel Aleksandrovich is a sports coach and organiser of a street football league in the mountainous Russian republic of Buryatia in eastern Siberia. He began by organising a competition for teams in several districts close to his home in Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatia, before expanding it into a large-scale event for teams from all over the republic. He has also created a student futsal league and his aim is to increase the participation of children and teenagers in sporting activities, steering them towards a healthy lifestyle.

What are the UEFA Grassroots Awards?

UEFA launched the annual Grassroots Awards in 2010 to reward excellence and shine a light on some of European football's unsung heroes.

Each of our 55 national associations are invited to nominate candidates each year, with award winners then selected by UEFA's Executive Committee, following recommendations made by the organisation's Grassroots Panel bureau and Development and Technical Assistance Committee.

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