Grassroots communities in Belarus, Belgium and Austria have reason to celebrate following the announcement of the 2016 UEFA Grassroots Awards.
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Grassroots leaders, clubs and projects in Belarus, Belgium and Austria have been recognised with gold medals in the 2016 UEFA Grassroots Awards, which have been announced in Athens.
Revealed this year as part of UEFA's Extraordinary Congress in the Greek capital, the awards – launched in 2010 – highlight inspirational stories from across Europe.
"The nominations for the 2016 UEFA Grassroots Awards were numerous and the selection process has been a thorough one," said chairman of the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee, Giancarlo Abete.
"It is encouraging to see that more and more associations are introducing grassroots awards at domestic level, to promote the grassroots game and to stimulate further development."
Best Grassroots Leader – Yury Beletskiy (Belarus)
The best grassroots leader award was handed to Yury Beletskiy, who has given children in the small Belarusian town of Zhabinka – with no previous chance to play organised football – the opportunity to enjoy the game and socialise with other youngsters.
"Grassroots football, like youth football, is the foundation stone of the football pyramid in our country," said Football Federation of Belarus (BFF) general secretary Sergei Safaryan. "It's one of the main areas of our work and we try to keep it at the centre of our attention."
The silver award went to Swedish volunteer Matilda Brinck-Larsen, who has built a club for refugees, while the recipient of the bronze was Antonio Piccolo from Italy, who founded the club Arci Scampia 30 years ago where football is used to teach positive values and help people from the local area to find work.
Best Grassroots Club – RWDM Girls (Belgium)
The category of best club spotlighted the work being done at RWDM Girls, a multi-cultural club in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek that has offered local girls hope and emerged as a hotbed of young talent.
"It's a club that's open for all – every girl that signs up for us has her own place, whatever the level, competitive or not," said club coordinator Ramzi Bouhlel.
Football for all is also the mantra of silver award-winning Gartcairn Football Academy in Scotland, who go by the slogan 'those who wish to play, shall play'. The bronze award was received by Village Amateur Football Club in Balkany, who have developed rapidly in one of the most distant corners of Ukraine.
Best Grassroots Project – 'Teamplay ohne Abseits' (Austria)
The gold award in the best project category, meanwhile, was handed to 'Teamplay ohne Abseits', a scheme run by the Austrian Football Association (ÖFB) and backed by the national government, which focuses on the integration of people from immigrant communities through a series of team-building workshops.
ÖFB sporting director Willi Ruttensteiner said: "It's not about getting an award, being happy about it and showing ourselves to the world; it's about giving many good examples and showing a lot of understanding for integration, for many skin colours, taking action against racism, and especially demonstrating respect among people.
"I think UEFA give many positive examples that we take up as well – they've started many initiatives and that has been a source of inspiration."
The project taking the silver award was 'My School, My Club', which has helped increase participation at club level in Serbia by working with the country's schools. Bronze, meanwhile, was awarded to the Football Leadership Programme of Solent University in England.