AFCON: Europe's contribution to African football development
Friday, January 14, 2022
Did you know UEFA and its national associations also work to develop the game outside of Europe? Below, we study how the UEFA Assist programme has benefited the nations competing at the Africa Cup of Nations.
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This month, 24 teams go head-to-head at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, a tournament that takes place a year later than scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many stars who ply their club trade in UEFA competitions will be in action as excitement builds towards the final on 6 February, but that is not the only reason for European attention on the tournament.
Through the Assist programme, UEFA and its member associations have collaborated to further the the development of football in all 24 competing Confederation of African Football (CAF) nations – sharing knowledge, best practice and solidarity to help the game grow.
UEFA Assist operates all over the world, helping our sister confederations and their associations continue to drive the game forward. Below, we look at the positive impact the programme has had focusing on key projects in each of the AFCON's 24 nations.
Group A - Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia
In collaboration with the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), we organised a 12-team under-17 development tournament in Antalya in March 2019. Featuring eight teams from Africa, three from Europe, and Australia, the tournament allowed elite youth players to experience other cultures and styles of football, preparing them for the 2019 Under-17 World Cup, but also life as senior international footballers. Its success led to a second eight-team tournament in September 2019.
Between October 2020 and June 2021, UEFA staged a series of online marketing workshops for CAF member associations. The webinars helped marketing officers develop their strategy and create dedicated development plans, as well as sharing case studies from UEFA members Czech Republic, Gibraltar and Norway, and best practices on branding, social networking and sponsorship, with a special focus on women's football.
As well as benefiting from the online marketing workshops described above, social training programmes have also been delivered for the Cape Verde FA between 2019 and 2020 by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), which has focused much of its on-going knowledge-sharing work in Portuguese-speaking nations.
UEFA Assist funding helped cement a partnership between Ethiopia and the Israel Football Association (IFA), with a focus on technical development. A memorandum of understanding was signed before the partnership kicked off with two men's under-17 international friendly matches, staged in June 2021.
Group B - Guinea, Malawi, Senegal, Zimbabwe
Guinea were one of eight African teams to take part in the 12-team UEFA Assist under-17 development tournament staged in Turkey in March 2019. Their young players were able to face a variety of opposition from Europe and Australia, preparing them for that year's Under-17 World Cup, and, further ahead, senior international football. The tournament also brought an opportunity for coaches to further their experience and exposure to different styles of play.
The English Football Association used UEFA Assist funding to donate football equipment to Malawi.
Like Guinea, Senegal also played in the under-17 development tournament in Turkey in March 2019.
Thanks to UEFA Assist funding, the Zimbabwean Football Association was able to purchase a minivan in April 2021 – a fundamental tool first used for the transportation of coaching officials and participating children during grassroots festivals and workshops.
Group C – Comoros, Gabon, Ghana, Morocco
Comoros took part in the UEFA Academy General Secretary programme in Maputo, Mozambique in April 2021. The five-day programme allowed African general secretaries to compare and address the practical issues they face, providing them with the tools to help improve all areas of the association's day-to-day performance.
Between February and December 2021, the Assist team supported the on-going professionalisation of Gabon's league organisation and its top-division clubs, paving the way for long-term and sustainable development in the country. The most recent activity included face-to-face seminars in Gabon, led by the Assist team.
The UEFA Assist team staged an inaugural Football For Women programme in Ghana in December 2021. The five-day event was created to help the national association develop women's roles in all areas of football, both on and off the pitch. A comprehensive range of workshops showcased how to implement effective governance structures to grow women’s football and increase awareness and participation. The workshop also demonstrated how to promote, professionalise and commercialise women's football.
Morocco was one of the eight African nations involved in the under-17 development tournament in Turkey in March 2019.
Group D - Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Sudan
The Egyptian FA's marketing director attended a series of online workshops in late 2020 to help improve their strategy and marketing plans.
UEFA Assist funding has facilitated the purchase of a minivan for the Guinea-Bissau FA, providing invaluable transport for grassroots footballers and coaches.
Having attended the original UEFA Academy General Secretary programme in Ethiopia in 2018, Nigeria's general secretary followed up the experience with a three-day online programme in February 2021. The follow-up programme reviewed many of the original themes, with an added focus on governance and administration, sponsorship and marketing, league professionalisation, club licensing, women's football development and financial management.
Thanks to UEFA Assist funding, in July 2021 the Sudanese FA was able to purchase vital equipment for its medical centre.
Group E - Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone
Algeria took part in a UEFA Under-16 development tournament hosted by the Albanian FA in February 2020. There, they were able to test their skills against the hosts, Georgia and Lithuania, exposing them and their team of coaches to different styles of play.
Like Algeria, the Equatorial Guinea FA's staff attended the 2020 and 2021 workshops to help develop effective marketing strategies and plans.
Ivory Coast were participants in the first UEFA Academy general secretary workshops in Casablanca in 2018. The programme is designed to bring general secretaries together to discuss the issues and challenges they face in their roles, working together to gain the tools to help improve all areas of the association's day-to-day performance.
Sierra Leone were participants at the UEFA Academy General Secretary programme in Maputo, Mozambique in April 2021. The five-day programme allowed African national association general secretaries to compare and address the practical issues they face, providing them with the tools to help improve all areas of the association's day-to-day performance.
Group F – Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Tunisia
UEFA Assist staff visited local football festivals in Gambia in spring 2021, delivering women's football development programmes to coaches and teachers in all seven regions of the country.
Malian FA representatives also attended the UEFA Assist and CAF online marketing workshops in late 2020 and 2021. The programme helped attendees develop effective marketing strategies and plans to keep the association moving forwards off the pitch.
Mauritania were among the first group of participants in the UEFA General Secretary programme in 2018, which brought together general secretaries from across African associations to discuss issues they face in their roles and provide them with access to the UEFA Toolbox in Football Management -one of the practical tools to help improve day-to-day organisational performance.
Like Mauritania, Tunisia's general secretary benefited from UEFA Academy guidance and workshops in Casablanca in 2018.
UEFA Assist: putting football first around the world
UEFA launched Assist, a football development programme, in 2017. Its objective: to share the experience and know-how of UEFA and its member associations beyond Europe.
By working closely with UEFA's five sister confederations and FIFA, Assist has built on existing collaborations with the AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North and Central America), CONMEBOL (South America) and the OFC (New Zealand and South Pacific island nations).
So far, Assist has channelled UEFA support to more than 200 football development projects in close to 60 countries worldwide. Initiatives focus on four main goals:
• Building capacity
• Developing youth football
• Strengthening infrastructure
• Supporting UEFA member associations to create their own solidarity programmes