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Development tournaments - a bridge to the future

UEFA's development tournaments at boys' and girls' U16 levels are giving young footballers crucial international experience at an early stage on their career paths.

Action from the game between Portugal and Sweden
Action from the game between Portugal and Sweden ©UEFA

Young male and female footballers are picking up important international experience thanks to UEFA's development tournaments.

The tournaments, which have been taking place at boys’ and girls’ U16 levels throughout Europe during the early months of the year, are felt to be a crucial stage on young players’ career pathways.

The development tournament schedule for 2017 has featured 14 tournaments for boys' U16 players and 12 for girls' U16 teams. Four UEFA member associations travel to a host country to take part in each tournament.

UEFA launched the tournaments in 2012, as it feels that the U16 level is a vital period in a youngster’s progress towards elite U17 football - the starting point for UEFA’s national competitions for men’s and women’s teams.

Tournaments are organised with the emphasis on development rather than winning, and coaches are able to give the U16 players invaluable playing time.

The events have a special educational and cultural role. Players learn about key UEFA values such as respect and fair play and, through mixing at the tournaments, discover different countries and their cultures.

One such tournament has just taken place in Portugal, comprising boys’ U16 teams from the host country, Russia, Sweden and Turkey – and the feedback from all those involved shows just how essential this development initiative is for European football.

Jean-François Domergue, UEFA head of football development

The development tournaments are a great platform for the players, and for the coaches to see their best players with a development approach, which means without having results as a priority. They are appreciated by all of UEFA’s member associations, and are seen as one of the last steps for national teams in making their final selection of squads in view of upcoming European U17 qualifiers.

Former Portugal international Pedro Miguel Pauleta, now working for the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF)

The development tournaments are a crucial phase in the player’s development, because playing at club or national team level is different, and this event allows the players to get international experience. In addition, playing against top national teams is key for the players, as the rhythm and the tempo of the matches is higher than what they are used to in their respective clubs.

Portugal coach Rui Bento

It allows us to test the team in a very competitive context. It's great, because our players will learn about other styles of play. We usually take advantage of being able to watch new players as well.

Sweden coach Magnus Wikman

This development tournament is very important to us. There is usually no opportunity to play against such competitive teams. The possibility to have 20 players [here] is very positive, because it allows all of the players to have playing time.

Turkey coach Ahmet Ceyhan

The tournament is essential - players gain international experience, meet opponents, see other realities and, in the future, will find themselves in major competitions. I feel that there are many benefits as far as team-building is concerned. At the end of the tournament, the quality of the players is higher than at the beginning.

Russia coach Leonid Ablizin

The tournament allows our players to have knowledge of new types of football and, with it, different types of problems posed by our opponents. This reality allows us to develop our players.

Portugal women’s national team coach Francisco Neto (technical observer)

These tournaments are central to the development of boys and girls. For many, it's the first opportunity to be together in a competitive context - something that will connect the team.