Hungary’s commitment to growing women’s football

With Budapest all set to host the 2019 UEFA Women’s Champions League final, the Hungarian Football Federation, in conjunction with UEFA, is taking steps to ensure women’s football develops to its full potential in the country.

Lyon and Barcelona will meet in the UEFA Women's Champions League final
Lyon and Barcelona will meet in the UEFA Women's Champions League final©MLSZ

Saturday will be a historic night for women’s football in Hungary, with Budapest hosting the 2019 UEFA Women’s Champions League final. This will be without doubt one of biggest women’s matches to have taken place in the country and is all part of the plans of the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) to develop the game domestically. 

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to host the most important European women’s club football event of the year in Budapest,” said the president of the MLSZ, Sándor Csányi.

“Just in the last couple of years, we have seen a large increase in the number of girls and women playing football. Women’s football matches became more popular on TV and I am sure that Saturday’s match will give a big boost and get even more young female players involved.”

Boosting women’s football

Part of the funding to increase the number of girls and women playing football in Hungary has come from the UEFA HatTrick programme. This initiative works in four-year cycles, with the current edition providing €610.5 million up until 2020, which works out at almost €153 million a year to assist UEFA's 55 member associations in nurturing football development. 

“HatTrick is a vitally important development programme, which shows that UEFA’s commitment to European football runs a lot deeper than its major club and national team competitions,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin. “We consider growth and development as an absolute prerequisite to maintain a sustainable and highly successful level of football for everyone.”

Assistance also comes from the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP), with each association receiving €100,000 every year specifically for growing women’s football. That funding comes from UEFA’s HatTrick programme. The guidance, expertise, advice and resources associated with the WFDP are intended to give UEFA and its member associations the chance to put ambitious visions into practice, as well as allowing them to advance in accordance with their respective needs.

Hungary has seen a big increase in the number of girls and women playing football
Hungary has seen a big increase in the number of girls and women playing football©MLSZ

In 2011, the MLSZ introduced its football in schools programme, in conjunction with the Hungarian School Sports Federation (HSSF). This was part of a plan to make the development of women’s football a strategic priority. Around 1.2 million schoolchildren – around 15% of the country’s total population – have already taken part in the programme. 

The MLSZ is now starting to reap the rewards, especially on the women’s side of the game. In the space of just two years, the number of female footballers has almost doubled, with a particular rise in those taking up the sport under the age of 18.

The children are given the best possible coaching, with Hungarian football’s governing body ensuring that adequate training is given to the coaches, and putting a legacy in place at the same time. At the end of each football in schools programme, the MLSZ’s grassroots programme will ensure that every Hungarian school has two teachers fully qualified to coach.

The MLSZ is focusing on giving children the best possible football education
The MLSZ is focusing on giving children the best possible football education©MLSZ

“We are delighted to see the great strides that the MLSZ has been making over the last few years,” said UEFA’s head of women’s football, Nadine Kessler. “The women’s game is developing across the continent, and Hungary is no exception. We are now seeing more girls and women playing football in Hungary than ever before, and hopefully this will have a knock-on effect on the national team in years to come.” 

To solidify these gains, the MLSZ is ensuring that more and more domestic women’s football matches are broadcast on television. The federation has also looked to improve infrastructure for women players, while also obliging men’s clubs in the top two divisions to have junior women’s teams at both Under-16 and Under-19 levels. 

Stars of tomorrow

Hungary have never qualified for a major women’s national team tournament, however, the MLSZ is determined this should change. That is why they are also focusing their attention on helping to develop young female talents of all ages.

Named after the legendary Hungarian footballer József Bozsik, who represented his country mainly in the 1950s, the Bozsik programme looks to give children from the ages of 7 to 13 the opportunity to play football at school. This initiative has had a massive influence on the number of girls taking up the sport. When the programme started in 2010, just over 3,000 girls were playing football. Last year, that figure had risen to almost 30,000.

The MLSZ is aiming to give girls from across the country the chance to play football
The MLSZ is aiming to give girls from across the country the chance to play football©MLSZ

However, the MLSZ realised it was important for girls who finished the Bozsik programme to be able to continue to play football. It therefore launched a nationwide Under-14 girls’ league. 

The MLSZ has also joined the UEFA Regional Development Programme, which focuses on 14-year-old girls. Thanks to this project, four regional centres have been set up across the country, giving girls in their early teens the opportunity to play, regardless of where they live in the country.

Regional coaches and assistants have been appointed in each region to take care of Under-14 talent structures, scouting and coaching. The best girls from this age group will be selected through scouting days and trials, and will then meet regularly for day camps throughout the spring and summer in order to feed into the Under-15 and Under-16 squads.

The ultimate aim is to create a fluid system for the country’s most talented young female players, who will join a national youth squad and compete in UEFA Under-16 development tournaments, allowing them to gain experience and eventually filter through to the national Under-17 team and hopefully beyond.