A new youth football academy in Georgia offers a bright future to a new generation of footballers thanks to support from UEFA's HatTrick programme.
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The opening ceremony for the new training centre in Rukhi, north-west Georgia, was attended by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, as well as Georgian Football Federation president Levan Kobiashvili, general secretary David Mujiri, first vice-president Kakha Chumburidze and local government officials.
Supported with funding and cooperation from UEFA's HatTrick programme and the FIFA Forward initiative, the facilities at Rukhi include one grass pitch and two artificial pitches, a modern floodlight system, stands, and a residential complex that can house up to 50 people. The residential building includes a dining hall, fitness room, changing rooms, laundry, referees’ room and medical room.
Apart from the academy teams, the new facilities can be used by women’s football clubs, amateur clubs and the local football schools. .
'A happy moment' for local football
“I am delighted this wonderful project has been completed ," said GFF president Levan Kobiashvili. This is a happy moment for me and I am sure that the same applies to the local population – everyone who is involved and interested in football.
"The Rukhi Academy will mainly serve children [and] local amateur and women’s football clubs will also be able to use the facilities.
"We also have a state school where the players will receive education. This is very important for GFF. Naturally, we will be delighted if all these youngsters become professional footballers, but we also aim to ensure that young people in Georgia practice healthy lifestyle and receive education."
Georgia's regional academy development project
The Rukhi facility is one of four regional academy centres throughout Georgia, with a fifth, in Kutaisi, under construction.
The academies provide training for elite youth players from the Under-14 age group and up, offering free academic education and accommodation on top of professional football coaching. Around 40 Under-15 and Under-16 players will be admitted to the Rukhi academy for the new academic year.
"The main purpose of our academies is to strengthen the base of the professional football pyramid," President Kobiashvili added. "Academy graduates should be able to play in the youth national teams. That is the principle of the academies - we aim to train players from a young age to prepare them for the national team."
How the UEFA HatTrick programme supports European football
The Rukhi facility is the latest concrete example of UEFA's HatTrick programme in action, reinvesting revenue from the European Championship back into football development in three (hence its name) different ways: investment, education and knowledge-sharing.
Launched following EURO 2004 in Portugal, HatTrick is one of the largest solidarity and development programmes ever to be established by a sports organisation.
By 2024, the HatTrick programme will have made a remarkable €2.6 bn available to its 55 member associations over the past 20 years, with the most recent cycle, launched in July 2020, committing €775.5m over the next four years.
National associations across Europe rely on HatTrick incentive payments to implement many of UEFA's programmes: anti-match fixing and integrity initiatives, the club licensing system, elite youth player development, good governance, grassroots football, women’s football, national coaching courses, referee training, social responsibility projects, travel expenses for national teams and UEFA youth, women’s, futsal and amateur competitions.
HatTrick’s contribution to the welfare of European football was never clearer than when the pandemic brought the game to a temporary halt. Despite the postponement of EURO 2020, UEFA quickly reassured national associations that it would honour the next four-year commitment, with €236.5m made available ahead of schedule to help meet the challenges of the pandemic.