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UEFA puts schools at heart of grassroots plans


UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin launched UEFA's €11m Football in Schools programme in Slovenia.

UEFA delegates join children at the UEFA Football in Schools launch event in Ljubljana
UEFA delegates join children at the UEFA Football in Schools launch event in Ljubljana ©UEFA.com

Getting children to play and enjoy football is a crucial element of UEFA's vision – and the body's new Football in Schools programme will take this vision an important step forward.

Over the next four years, UEFA – via its HatTrick assistance programme – will invest €44m in grassroots football in Europe, of which €11m will be dedicated to developing and/or improving school football.

Launching the ambitious UEFA grassroots programme on Tuesday at a special festival in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin explained that UEFA and schools both had a crucial role to play in encouraging children to be active.

"When I was young and played football outside, our parents used to shout at us to come back into the house," he said. "Nowadays, we have to tell our children to leave the house and go and play! This is a problem – because they are on their mobile phones and playing on their computers. We can't completely change this, but we have to try and address the issue."

At the launch event, six school teams comprising boys and girls – two from Slovenia and one each from neighbouring countries Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Italy – competed at Ljubljana's Trg republike. The players were divided into teams of mixed nationalities, with no intervention or active coaching by teachers and no refereeing, to give the festival a true feel of international friendship, diversity, respect and teamwork.

Luís Figo, Nadine Kessler, Aleksander Čeferin, Milenko Ačimovič and Florent Malouda
Luís Figo, Nadine Kessler, Aleksander Čeferin, Milenko Ačimovič and Florent Malouda©UEFA.com

Back in his home city, Mr Čeferin opened the festival and played alongside the children in the opening match, along with Luís Figo, Nadine Kessler, Milenko Ačimovič and Florent Malouda, while UEFA Executive Committee members in town for the UEFA Executive Committee meeting also shared in the festive atmosphere.

UEFA Football in Schools

The UEFA Football in Schools programme will run from 2020-24 following approval by the UEFA Executive Committee, and is open to UEFA's 55 member associations. It follows a successful pilot project with six associations – Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, North Macedonia, Northern Ireland and Russia – which began in 2017.

The programme also complements UEFA's Grassroots Charter, which emphasises the importance of establishing grassroots programmes with schools. UEFA's social responsibility as a football governing body is to ensure that everybody, everywhere has the opportunity to play football in a safe and quality-controlled environment.

Schools are considered as ideal partners to give all children – irrespective of ability, gender, ethnicity or religion – the opportunity to play football in a safe environment. In addition, schools are felt to be important stakeholders because many children play football for the first time at school. It is important that this first experience of football is a positive one, paving the way for children to continue playing in a club environment if they so wish.

The UEFA President takes to the pitch in Ljubljana
The UEFA President takes to the pitch in Ljubljana©UEFA.com

Consequently, the project will seek to establish effective cooperation between Europe's national associations and relevant national education authorities in each UEFA member country.

Among the numerous objectives of the programme is the promotion of football as a social and educational tool; to increase the number of registered players by creating links between clubs and local schools; and make football activities an integral part of children's physical education. The aim is also to train teachers and volunteers to provide quality football lessons, and to increase the number of coaches, in particular female coaches.

Europe's associations will be encouraged to join the UEFA Football in Schools programme, and interested associations will be asked to draw up a four-year project plan that is in line with the programme's aim and philosophy.

In return, UEFA will provide tailor-made assistance from assigned experts; as well as sharing best practices from across Europe. Funding of up to €50,000 will be made available to participating associations by UEFA each year via the UEFA HatTrick assistance project.

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