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Game-changing Assist for global game


The UEFA Assist programme has facilitated development projects across the world, not least alongside CONMEBOL with whom several youth tournaments have been organised.

Via Assist, youth tournaments have been organised allowing the likes of Bolivia and Austria to play against each other from the early age-groups
Via Assist, youth tournaments have been organised allowing the likes of Bolivia and Austria to play against each other from the early age-groups

The Finalissima represents a unique opportunity to see the reigning EURO champions meet the Copa America winners – a tectonic clash between the game's most successful continents. Further down the football pyramid, however, elite youth players representing national teams from Europe and South America regularly get to test their skills against each other, thanks to UEFA's Assist development programme.

Since helping the Czech Republic and Croatia youth teams to play in the 2017 edition of South America's Under-15 youth championship in Argentina, Assist funding has allowed nine CONMEBOL member associations to compete in numerous Under-16 UEFA youth tournaments across Europe. The most recent saw Brazil travel to Wales last April to play against the host nation, as well as Spain and Turkey.

Eva Pasquier, UEFA's head of international relations

"These competitions help talented young players grow on and off the pitch often giving them the opportunity to play in an international tournament for the first time. It's an inspiring experience which opens a door to different playing styles and cultures."

The tournaments are just one example of how the Assist programme has boosted football development not just in South America, but also across football's four other sister confederations and their respective member associations: the AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North and Central America) and the OFC (Oceania).

"Sharing knowledge and creating opportunities for young players is vital for the development of football throughout the world," says Nery Pumpido, CONMEBOL deputy general secretary for football and director of development. "CONMEBOL is delighted that the recent Memorandum of Understanding has further strengthened our collaboration with UEFA and its member associations."

Building on its 2017 launch, Assist has reinvested UEFA revenue into 200 football development projects in 60 countries worldwide.

In addition to helping national teams from around the world take part in boys' and girls' tournaments, Assist initiatives also fund educational programmes, enhancing capacity and professionalism in different areas of football management, and small-scale infrastructure projects, for example, installing floodlights or purchasing utility vehicles. In South America, the programme has delivered a minivan for each of CONMEBOL's member associations. These serve a range of purposes, from transporting official visitors to ferrying grassroots teams to local competitions.

This season, Assist launched Football for Women – an educational initiative designed to help South American associations learn from the pioneering example of women's football in Europe. The project kicked off in Paraguay and Venezuela last month. Topics included: attracting more young girls to the game, developing a career pathway for elite players and empowering women through football.

"This is an important step for the development of women's football in our member associations," says Fabimar Franchi, head of sustainability and women's football development at CONMEBOL. "Combining our efforts to develop this programme has brought clear benefits to everyone involved. The response from the participants has been incredible, and we look forward to implementing future editions."

Assist also encourages all 55 UEFA member associations to unilaterally identify ways of working with member associations of other confederations. For example, the Slovak Football Association supports player development in Botswana while the Irish Football Association organises coach education courses in Tanzania.

"Assist ensures UEFA's support for football stretches far beyond Europe," says Ms. Pasquier. "By sharing our expertise and experience and investing in development projects, we are giving back to confederations and national associations that have contributed so much to enrich the European game."

A full version of this article can be read in the official Finalissima programme, available to buy online now.

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