The UEFA President hailed football’s development in Liechtenstein when he visited the Alpine principality on Monday.
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Mr Čeferin, on his first visit to Liechtenstein as UEFA President, gained a comprehensive first-hand overview of the challenges faced by one of UEFA’s smaller member countries in the principality of some 38,000 inhabitants, which sits between Austria and Switzerland.
He was briefed about the work and achievements of the Liechtenstein Football Association (LFV) – a member of UEFA since 1974 - in talks with the association’s president Hugo Quaderer and general secretary Peter Jehle.
Mr Čeferin also met sports minister Daniel Risch and the mayor of Liechtenstein’s capital Vaduz, Manfred Bischof, and attended a reception at the Castle of Vaduz, hosted by H.S.H. Prince Alois of Liechtenstein.
“It’s very important for me to visit the smaller countries,” the UEFA President said, “and I must say that I’m quite impressed by the infrastructure and organisation of football in Liechtenstein. It’s great that the municipalities and government are giving their support, and I think that there is a bright future ahead.”
There is no national league in Liechtenstein, which has seven clubs, all of whom play in Switzerland’s league pyramid. One club, FC Vaduz, has competed in Switzerland’s top-flight Super League in recent seasons. The country’s only national competition is the Liechtenstein Football Cup, through which the cup-winners qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
UEFA, LIECHTENSTEIN AND HATTRICK
Mr Čeferin toured the LFV’s offices in Schaan, and visited the National Training Centre in Ruggell. The training centre, still under construction, is being partly funded through UEFA’s HatTrick programme, which sees revenue from the European Championship reinvested in European football to benefit UEFA’s 55 member associations in both sporting and infrastructure terms.
The complex will provide all of Liechtenstein’s national teams with the best possible conditions, not only for training, but also for educational matters.
UEFA’s commitment to large and small
"HatTrick is a vitally important development programme, which shows that UEFA's commitment to European football runs a lot deeper than its major club and national team competitions," Mr Čeferin explained.
"We consider growth and development an absolute prerequisite to maintain a sustainable and highly successful level of football for everyone."
How HatTrick is making an impact
“Funding from the UEFA HatTrick programme has been vital for the development of football in Liechtenstein,” said Hugo Quaderer.
“We do not have the same resources at our disposal compared to larger associations,” the LFV president added. “However, the funding we have received has allowed us to improve facilities for footballers at all levels – from our national teams, to youngsters who will hopefully go on to play for Liechtenstein in years to come.”
Major plans are in progress for the national team centre. With HatTrick’s helping hand, the LFV is ready to build new pitches and upgrade floodlighting installations.
Ruggell’s municipal authorities have also approved the construction of a new building at the centre, which will be equipped with impressive new facilities – a press conference room, meeting room and medical and physiotherapy centre. Work is set for completion this August.
Rheinpark pitch renovation
In 2016, UEFA helped to fund a major upgrade of the floodlighting system at Leichtenstein’s national stadium, the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz. The European body will now also fund the total renovation of the pitch.
Growing grassroots drive
The LFV, in conjunction with the UEFA Grassroots programme, has also taken steps to ensure that children in the country are getting the best possible football education in order to further their development.
Fussball macht Schule
A flourishing initiative launched in 2013 with local authority support to inspire children to play football in their free time. UEFA’s Women’s Football Development Programme has supported the initiative, which continues to make its mark in the principality:
• 2013: 24 school classes and 370 children
• 2019: almost 90 school classes – almost 1,000 children
“I would like to pay tribute to all those grassroots coaches, teachers and volunteers who continue to look after children on pitches across Liechtenstein and are helping to develop football in the country,” said Mr Čeferin.
"Children are the future of our sport,” said Peter Jehle, who won a record 132 caps as goalkeeper for for the Leichtenstein national team. "We are delighted to see more and more boys and girls playing, and we will continue to invest in grassroots development."
UEFA GROW backing
In 2017, UEFA’s GROW programme aimed at nurturing national association development offered support to the LFV for a major rebranding project which created a new visual identity and reflected the association’s ambitions.
The strong partnership between UEFA and kit manufacturer Macron in the Top Executive Programme (TEP) also saw Liechtenstein take advantage of the UEFA Kit Assistance Scheme. This brought about the creation of new bespoke kits.