Since its launch in 2020, the inspirational UEFA Playmakers programme has proved a resounding hit with families throughout Europe.
Article top media content
Girls across Europe are falling in love with football thanks to the UEFA Playmakers programme.
A recent survey has shown that 91 per cent of Playmakers participants want to continue playing the game following a fun-filled introduction that combines basic football sessions with the magic of Disney.
Almost 40,000 girls aged from five to eight have now taken part in the Playmakers programme. The adventure started back in 2020 with pilot national associations getting involved during the pandemic. Despite the health context, Playmakers continued to be rolled-out in countries where playing was possible and generated great enthusiasm both from parents and their daughters. Once the return to play was confirmed, many UEFA member national associations expressed their interest to enrol in the programme and today, 30 European countries have implemented it and 14 more will roll it out by the end of 2022.
Sessions teach important fundamental movement and life skills, create friendships and build confidence in girls by using Disney movies like Frozen II and The Incredibles 2 to provide a fun and safe introduction to learning football. Using their imagination and diving into the magic of Disney storytelling, girls are encouraged to reveal their inner Elsa or Violet and play football through themed exercises using elements of Disney stories.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with the huge majority of girls wanting to continue playing football at the end of their 10 Playmakers sessions, which last between 45 minutes and one hour each, despite most having never experienced the game before.
The programme has proved equally popular with parents, with 94 per cent recommending it to others, and more than 70 per cent actively encouraging their daughters to stay involved with the sport.
A crucial element of the programme's success has been offering the opportunity to discover the game in a non-competitive, girls-only environment. Playmakers is a safe space where the girls can gain self-confidence and fall in love with the game.
As a result of the activity-based sessions, Playmakers has also attracted a different profile of coach – 3,745 'deliverers’ have been trained to lead the programme, 63 per cent of which are women, and 39 per cent who had not previously been involved with football.
What are players and parents saying about UEFA Playmakers?
Rikke and Sofia, 6, Denmark
Rikke: "My daughter is very much into stories and roleplay so the storytelling was a big part of the whole adventure. She agreed to start because it was girls-only and enjoyed being active with other children and making new friends. She has joined a football club because of UEFA Playmakers and has started straight after Playmakers finished. I don’t think she would have joined a football club [otherwise] as she has never played or shown interest in football or any other sport."
Sofia: "My favourite thing about Playmakers was making new friends. I am already playing for my new football club. We get to win games, run around together and play 'catch' a lot when we warm up for training."
Janica and Sofia, 5, Malta
Janica: "UEFA Playmakers was the best introduction to football and honestly I am not sure if she would have shown an interest if it wasn’t for these lessons. The coaches were great, the lessons were fun and they learnt a lot. My daughter is very shy and does not always have much confidence; I feel that as the lessons progressed, so did her participation and confidence in herself and her skills. She even began telling everyone she is becoming a footballer!"
Sofia: "The teachers and the lessons were fun, especially when we used to shout 'Super? Heroes!' I want to continue playing and learn how to play football well."
Oxana and Yanna, 5, Romania
Oxana: "Both my daughter and her colleagues were very attracted to the theme of the Playmakers project, namely the Disney characters. These eternal characters have positively influenced many generations and, as I can see, they also inspire different organisations such as UEFA to create something beautiful, useful and pleasant for children. It is a very appealing method of education and discipline for children who start playing sports so early. It's the first time I've heard, as an extracurricular activity, to create football for girls at such a young age."
Yanna: "I love football! I liked Helen Parr – Elastigirl and most of all that I felt that the coaches loved me. Ah, yes and artificial grass!"
Antonella and Ylenia, 8, San Marino
Antonella: "Disney stories are always exciting. Girls can identify with the characters, learning the basic exercises of football in a playful way. My daughter particularly liked the themed exercises inspired by the Frozen film about the four elements fire, wind, earth and water. She also liked the reading of the story alternating with the exercises. She found more self-confidence and new stimuli to learn better; she got on very well with the other girls, making new friends, and she definitely improved her football skills thanks to the play and fun that this programme offers."
Ylenia: "I played football before and with Playmakers it became even more fun for me, also because I met so many new friends."