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UEFA Youth League: clubs fighting discrimination and supporting communities

As well as providing priceless experience on the pitch, the Youth League also ensures top young players are prepared to play an active role in preventing and fighting discrimination in European football and provides incentives to support local communities.

Club Brugge players enjoy a training session with local schoolchildren
Club Brugge players enjoy a training session with local schoolchildren Club Brugge

Young professional players across Europe are learning about discrimination in football as part of their participation in the UEFA Youth League.

This season, UEFA is working with the Under-19 squads from all 64 participating clubs, using the OUTRAGED documentary series to educate players on the importance of respect and inclusion.

Each team was asked to select a discrimination topic, watch at least one of the five OUTRAGED episodes and discuss the topics, which include racism, sexism, homophobia, refugee discrimination and online abuse, with its players.

Hajduk's Ivana Jukicic believes the initiative will have positive effects on the club's players.

"We want to introduce all possible situations in football, good or bad, to young players," she said. "It’s important that the players get the knowledge and awareness of existing problems in football and learn that no matter our race we all have a shared love for football. With this programme we want to minimise the number of issues and ensure that all our players look at everyone as unique and equal."

Hajduk players show their support in the battle against racism after watching OUTRAGED
Hajduk players show their support in the battle against racism after watching OUTRAGEDHajduk Split

Reaching into the community

Each year, every team that competes in the Youth League also receives a €500 grant from UEFA to use on a social project during the season, ensuring players are engaging with and learning from their local communities.

Clubs across Europe have embraced the initiative, and we explore some of the highlights below.

Support for refugee children

Shakhtar Donetsk hosted special training sessions and tournaments in Lviv for children from the Shakhtar Shelter Centre – a humanitarian refugee project run by the club – with youth team players joining in with the action and making a special donation of sports equipment.

In Czechia, Slavia Praha also hosted special training sessions and matches for Ukrainian refugee children alongside their Under-19 squad, with Slavia's Ukraine international defender Taras Kacharaba meeting with the kids to discuss their experiences. The club has also helped to provide accommodation and meals for refugees, as well as assisting them with visa, social security and health insurance processes.

One young fan enjoys her training session with Shakhtar
One young fan enjoys her training session with ShakhtarShakhtar Donetsk

In Cyprus, Omonia FC players visited the Hope for Children Foundation, which takes care of young refugees arriving in Cyprus, many of whom have lost one or both of their parents. They played football with the older children at the Foundation and donated the €500 towards buying gifts.

Armenia's FC Pyunik squad also visited a local orphanage to spend time with the children, the next day inviting them back to the club's training facilities where they could also meet the senior team.

Tackling hunger and other community issues

Liverpool's young players donated money to and visited a local charity, the Big Help Project, which specialises in foodbanks and supplying other provisions for the local community. The squad spent time supporting volunteers, helping to sort, pack and weigh food donations.

Staying on a food theme, in Portugal, FC Porto's Youth League squad contributed to the local "Zero Hunger" initative, as players collected leftover food following a match at the club's Estádio do Dragão and delivered it to local charities.

In Italy, Napoli's Youth League squad and coaching staff visited the Associazione Amici di Leo, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping people recovering from addiction. They took a tour of the facility before hearing some of the experiences of those who have been aided by the centre.

Napoli players and staff heard stories from people recovering from addiction
Napoli players and staff heard stories from people recovering from addictionSC Napoli

Belgium's Club Brugge players visited a local school which specialises in helping children live healthier, more active lifestyles, enjoying a training session and sharing some fitness tips.

Gabala SC of Azerbaijan took the novel step of recognising some of the town's top students, awarding 10 high-performing young people with gifts and cash prizes for their efforts, with presentations from players and the club president.

See the latest from the Youth League