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Georgia’s innovative Elite Youth Player Development Programme

Despite the postponement of EURO 2020, UEFA quickly committed to its 2020–24 funding cycle for HatTrick – the football development programme which, every four years, channels EURO revenue to UEFA’s member associations. In a special series, we talk to national associations about ground-breaking football projects that will continue to thrive thanks to UEFA’s commitment. In this latest HatTrick funding feature, we look at Georgia's successful youth programme.

Since 2014, the UEFA Elite Youth Player Development Programme has been instrumental in helping to foster talented young players in four pilot national associations - Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and North Macedonia.

With the help of UEFA, the four countries have established national academy set-ups which focus on strong links between the association, schools and clubs, creating clear links between football training and education. The specific programmes have been geared to each association’s needs and requirements, featuring an established philosophy, operating system (physical, tactical and nutrition) and detailed action plan aimed at developing players.

"I would like to emphasise the importance of the incentive payments and the investment projects implemented under the UEFA HatTrick programme," says Georgia Football Federation (GFF) secretary general, David Mujiri. "This is because in Georgia, we have a shortage of the necessary infrastructure for realising the goals which the GFF has set for itself.

"Under the investment project component of the last UEFA HatTrick programme cycle, we opened the Rustavi Technical Centre, which houses the GFF's main academy. Such facilities are needed across the whole country to develop elite youth football, and [thanks to] the financial support provided by the UEFA HatTrick programme, we are able to implement these and other projects each year, aiding also the development of women’s football, corporate social responsibility and coach education."

Georgia's Elite Youth Development Programme: all you need to know

- Under-14 and Under-15 players are selected for regional football academies. There are four academies which cover all 13 regions of Georgia.

- After completing training sessions at regional centres, players are selected for Georgia Football Federation football academies located across Georgia. Widespread scouting helps identify talented youngsters for the Under-16 level, with up to 60 players selected to take part in a 20-day trial camp.

- Of the 60 players, 22 are selected each year to join the Rustavi national academy, providing an opportunity to attain a top-level, football-related education.

- Players are provided with one to three years of on-site accommodation and training, including public school education, catering, clothing, equipment, fitness, medical facilities and psychological assistance if required.

- After completing the Rustavi football academy programme, players at Under-17 and above can play for youth national teams and at a professional level.

- Older students, Under-18 and above, stay full-time at the campus in Basa, which can house up to 140 people and is home to three pitches – two artificial and one grass.

- Academy funding comes from UEFA, the Georgia Football Federation and the government, and has been used to fund the construction of facilities across multiple locations.

Where are academies located?

Georgia has six major academies contributing to its youth development
Georgia has six major academies contributing to its youth development

Within the set-up, there are many GFF academies which all contribute to the success of the programme:

- Rustavi, 25km from Tbilisi (Under-14, Under-15 and Under-16)
- Zugdidi (Samegrelo region), established at the beginning of the 2016/17 season (Under-14 - Under-15).
- Rukhi (Samegrelo Region, Zugdidi municipality)
- Lagodekhi (Kakheti Region) established in the middle of the 2017/18 season (Under-14 - Under-15)
- Gvimbalauri (Guria Region) established in 2020 (Under-14 - Under-15)
- Kutaisi (under construction)

What are the results of the programme?

Consistency in approach to the action plan across several elements (technical, physical and mental) has undoubtedly helped contribute to Georgia achieving better results in UEFA’s recent qualifying competitions.

The men's national team were one game away from qualifying for its first major tournament, losing out to North Macedonia, another of the nations adopting the Elite Youth Player Development Programme, in November's UEFA EURO 2020 play-off final.

The Under-17 and Under-19 national teams qualified for the elite round tournaments for the first time in the 2019/20 season.

"The projects have been a resounding success, and are showing UEFA the way forward," said Jean-Francois Domergue, UEFA’s head of player development. "The four associations have progressed across the board."

Learn more about UEFA's Elite Youth Player Development Programme