Gender equality is an essential facet of life at Polish club AKS ZŁY, whose grassroots work in a tough district of Warsaw has led to the club winning the Best Grassroots Club prize in the 2019 UEFA Grassroots Awards.
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The first democratic sports club in the Polish capital, Warsaw, was created by fans in 2015, and is entirely and directly managed by supporters, athletes and coaches who want to participate in its development.
AKS [Alternative Sports Club] ZŁY is considered as a role model in terms of grassroots activities. The club is located in the Praga area of Warsaw ˗ and its work demonstrates that boundaries can be broken down thanks to football.
“AKS is a grassroots club, because we want football to be accessible to everyone, no matter where you’re from, the colour of your skin, sexuality, your level of fitness or gender,” says club board member Waldemar Grygiel.
AKS ZŁY runs men’s and women’s teams. It organises free football classes for refugees, and also focuses on the inclusion of disabled players. The club is run by members who work on a voluntary basis, and only the coaches are remunerated.
Co-founder Piotr Maniszewski says that the club’s gender equality policy is a crucial pillar of its work. “Promoting equality is one of our strengths, without question,” he says. “That’s also apparent in our membership and management … the proportion of males and females is pretty much fifty-fifty.”
“More and more girls are playing football on the streets or at school. I think we’re going in the right direction. The club’s approach to equality has attracted new female players.”
Swearing and violent, homophobic or racist behaviour are not allowed at the teams’ matches. “We try to be a club that that promotes positive behaviour,” explains Waldemar Grygiel.
AKS ZŁY’s close links with the local district has also brought increased attendances at the teams’ matches. “We support community initiatives and we get involved in local community activities,” says Grygiel.
“The club has become the heart of this beautiful neighbourhood. I think we’ve integrated ourselves into this district, and I hope that the community here in Praga regard us as a good neighbour.”
UEFA Grassroots Awards
The Best Grassroots Club prize rewards clubs which do outstanding grassroots work and which, in particular, have a social impact.
The UEFA Grassroots Awards have been run annually since 2010. The awards reward excellence in the grassroots field, and national associations from around Europe are invited to put forward candidates each year. UEFA’s Executive Committee ratifies the awards following recommendations made by the UEFA Grassroots Panel bureau and UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee.