Former German striker Jürgen Klinsmann has told delegates at UEFA's Grassroots Conference that young people must be encouraged to stay in football.
Preventing teenage 'drop-outs'
Klinsmann, addressing the third UEFA Grassroots Course in Cyprus via a phone link-up from Los Angeles, urged grassroots officials to do their utmost to prevent youngsters from dropping out of football too early.
Fun, enjoyment and interest
"It is important that grassroots leaders should make football fun and enjoyable and interesting enough for young people to want to remain in the game," said Klinsmann, who enjoyed a glittering career with VfB Stuttgart, Internazionale FC, Tottenham Hotspur FC and FC Bayern München, winning the 1990 FIFA World Cup and EURO 96(tm) along the way with the German national team.
Klinsmann told the course about his own efforts to put something back into the game. Together with colleagues from Germany's successful 1990 and '96 teams, as well as German coach educators, he has helped set up a grassroots foundation in Germany. He said that one of the foundation's aims was to reverse a trend in Germany where vast numbers of people drop out of football in their mid-teens.
A number of stars have joined forces with UEFA to support the crucial grassroots sector of football, which European football's governing body feels is vital for the future health of the sport. In a video message, former England striker Alan Shearer told delegates at the Cyprus course that throughout his outstanding football career, he had made sure never to forget his local roots in the northeast of England.
Another footballing 'great', Hansi Müller - who won the 1980 UEFA European Championship with Germany - made a plea to Europe's national football associations to use former professionals to assist in the development of young players. <p. <b=""> Passing on knowledge
Müller, who is acting as a "football ambassador" for UEFA, told the course delegates: "The professionals have the experience, and should be encouraged to pass on their knowledge to the next generation."
Supporting grassroots drive
The former German midfield player has joined one-time world stars Sergei Aleinikov (Belarus), Gabriel Calderón (Argentina) and Dariusz Dzeikanowski (Poland) in lending their support to UEFA's grassroots drive. On Tuesday, Liverpool FC and England striker Michael Owen gave his backing to UEFA's programme, calling on adults and grassroots officials to encourage children to play and enjoy football.