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Czech pride at staging UEFA Women's Under-19 EURO

Hosting UEFA youth tournaments provides a huge opportunity to national associations, as Michal Valtr, general secretary of the Football Association of the Czech Republic (FAČR) explains.

France lift the trophy in 2019
France lift the trophy in 2019 SPORTSFILE

This summer, UEFA's youth international tournaments have returned following an enforced three-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is not just great news for the players involved, who get to test themselves against other elite talent from across Europe, but also for the nations staging them – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic.

For the Czech Republic, the UEFA Women's Under-19 EURO, which kicks off on Monday, is the latest in a string of recent appointments for such competitions, which includes the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, 2015 Under-21 EURO and 2017 Women's Under-17 EURO, with the UEFA Europa Conference League final to be held in Prague next May.

FAČR general secretary Michal Valtr explains what it means to the association, and how it benefits the game at home.

How much are you looking forward to hosting the UEFA Women's Under-19 EURO?

We are very honoured that UEFA has awarded the championship to the Czech Republic, specifically to the Czech FA. We believe that the tournament will have at least the same public response as the UEFA European Women's Under-17 EURO, held in 2017 in Pilsen and the surrounding area.

How important is it for Czech football to stage such showpiece events?

The Czech Republic is aware that it cannot compete in terms of size and football infrastructure when hosting tournaments such as the EURO for men and women. That's why we are going down the route of bidding for youth European championships. This was met with great interest from spectators and had very positive feedback at home and abroad. For the UEFA Women's Under-17 EURO, there were more than 10,000 spectators in the stands for the opening match (a competition record).

Women's U19 tournament guide

How important is women’s football to the association’s ongoing strategy?

Women's football has deep roots in our country. Already at the end of the 1960s, a women's football team was formed in the club Slavia Praha, which played international matches, especially in Italy, and took care of the promotion of football in our country and the creation of other women's teams.

After the establishment of the independent Czech Republic in 1993, the women's national team was one of the better European averages and it is still in this position now, when the level of women's football in Europe is going up sharply and the competition is getting bigger.

The FAČR considers women's football to be a very important part of our activity and creates very good conditions for the development of women's football, which is also reflected in the results. In the recent qualification for Women's EURO 2022, the Czech national team was eliminated by Switzerland only in a penalty shoot-out.

The FAČR has a target of reaching 25,000 registered female players by 2024 – how do events like this help to achieve this goal?

Our association has set an ambitious goal of reaching 25,000 registered players by 2024. We are confident that events such as the Women's Under-19 EURO will help attract interest in women's football and bring new players into our ranks. Examples of successful careers of female players also play a big role, as more than half of the national team plays in quality clubs abroad.

How does working with UEFA on elite player development also help you achieve your aims?

UEFA is looking for new ways to help development and one of them is a new model for the Women's Under-17 and Under-19 qualification tournaments. The format guarantees everyone will play between five and six matches, and teams will compete against similarly strong opponents. For us, as the organisers of the final tournament, it brings one extra bonus - our national team could compete in the qualifiers and regardless of the results, is guaranteed to participate in the final tournament. The opportunity to play quality matches will definitely help the development of our best players in the Under-19 category.

Find out more about how the FAČR is developing football