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Netherlands putting down roots for the future

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Various projects in the lead-up to this year’s UEFA Women's Champions League final will secure an enduring legacy in Eindhoven.

Young Dutch fans at UEFA Women's EURO 2022
Young Dutch fans at UEFA Women's EURO 2022 UEFA via Getty Images

The 2023 Women’s Champions League final will have a lasting impact on the wider Eindhoven region, with several projects devised to ensure its sporting and social legacy in the local community.

The key aim on the sporting front has been to raise the number of registered female coaches in the area, using the final to identify potential. Working together in the lead-up to the final, UEFA and the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) looked to improve existing initiatives and use the inspiring example of role models to spread awareness of football coaching as a viable pathway.

Influential Dutch coach Vera Pauw
Influential Dutch coach Vera Pauw©UEFA.com

The goal is to increase the number of female coaches by 55% in the Eindhoven region by the end of the 2023/24 season, as well as creating a network and launching a legacy programme to help girls and women pursue training and education programmes. In addition, various themed sessions were held at local amateur clubs to educate grassroots teams about recruiting women.

By way of an incentive to get more women involved in this initiative, individuals and clubs taking part had the opportunity to earn free tickets to the final. All participants are also added to the KNVB’s Welcome Programme, which is in place to encourage women and clubs to participate – and contribute to the education of those that do.

Another motivation for grassroots clubs has been the opportunity to attend a masterclass in Champions League coaching, the day before the final. With about 150 people attending, it features panel discussions with professional female football coaches, all the way from those just starting out to England manager Sarina Wiegman. Current footballers are involved too, explaining the effect that a good coach can have on a player’s career.

Sarina Wiegman: UEFA Women's Coach Of The Year 2021/22

Also getting involved are 20 club owners from the United Soccer League, North America’s largest professional football organisation. They are in Europe to see for themselves what sustained growth in women’s football looks like, as they investigate setting up a female football league in the US.

There’s a social legacy programme too. UEFA, the city of Eindhoven and the province of Northern Brabant have been helping the mental wellbeing of girls aged 13 to 18 in the Eindhoven region, using the power of football. With studies showing that 43% of girls in Dutch secondary schools suffer from emotional problems, the three-month programme selected two groups of girls facing social exclusion and held weekly meetings, as well as providing activities linked to football to bolster their mental resilience.

These sessions initially concentrated on team building, before switching focus to individual mental strength and how each girl could share her story. A key component is the ripple effect on the local community, with the participants able to inspire others in their neighbourhood as role models. Additionally, the girls who took part will become the trainers for a one-year programme in Eindhoven and two other cities after the final.

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