UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Special award for Moldova after Ukraine support

The Football Association of Moldova (FMF) receives a special UEFA Grassroots Award after helping more than 10,000 child refugees find new hope.

UEFA Grassroots Awards 2022/23: Special Award

Since the initial Russian invasion of Ukraine last February, Moldova has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom crossed the border having left behind all their possessions.

In response, and by working alongside UEFA, the UEFA Foundation and UNICEF, Moldova's football community has united to provide help, support and opportunity.

The FMF offered its national training centre and futsal arena as accommodation for families, providing equipment and supplies, as well as organising a wide variety of football activities for children.

In total, it is estimated that the association has directly helped more than 10,000 refugee children over the past year, despite previously having no budget allocated for such actions. Many children are now integrated into Moldovan schools and sports clubs as they look to a brighter future.

In addition to support at home, the FMF has also sent supplies to Ukraine for people who remained in the country, including three trucks, two packed with medicines and food and another with sports equipment and kits which allowed the staging of special youth sports events for 3,000 children.

Zvonimir Boban, UEFA technical director & chief of football:

"Every player we see on our screens in UEFA competitions began their journey on a local pitch with friends or family.

"The elite game relies on a strong grassroots base, and that is why it is imperative that we celebrate the lesser-known stars who are bringing the game to people of all ages and abilities across Europe.

"We look forward to announcing the winners this week and congratulate them all on their fantastic work."

Diana Bulgaru, grassroots manager, FMF:

"Two days after the war started, we had a lot of refugees coming to our country. It was very hard to see these people crossing the border only in slippers and with a small bag. Many of them had children and it was very cold.

"We started a lot of activities to help the refugees, almost all of the football clubs in Moldova gave up their training facilities to allow the refugees and their children somewhere to sleep. It was a really heartbreaking picture to see all of these families at our football camps. That’s where they stayed and we provided everything necessary for them.

"We didn't have a plan or any budget but we just wanted to help these people. We are all just volunteers who wanted to help.

"A psychologist we have been working with told me there was a little girl who was crying all day long every day, because her dad and best friends stayed in Ukraine and she had to move with her mum here in Moldova. But, when she came to the football activities, she was so happy on the field. She was laughing all the time. The psychologist told us that she was so surprised to see her like this because away from football she was crying all the time. But here she was totally different. The psychologist said that this is the first time that she felt like sport can change a person so much."

Many Ukrainian children are now integrated into Moldovan schools and sports clubs
Many Ukrainian children are now integrated into Moldovan schools and sports clubsUEFA via Getty Images

About the UEFA Grassroots Awards

The UEFA Grassroots Awards have been celebrating outstanding contributions and achievements in the game since 2010. Focused on football outside the elite game, the awards turn the floodlights on some of the unsung heroes and inspiring initiatives that make football such a vital part of communities throughout Europe.

Candidates are nominated by Europe's national football associations, with award winners selected by UEFA's Development and Technical Assistance committee following recommendations made by the organisation's Grassroots Panel. This year, the Panel decided to recognise Moldova's outstanding humanitarian effort in an emergency situation with the Special Award, which they felt did not fit directly into one of the other five categories.

Selected for you