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UEFA Grassroots Awards 2023/24: Best Amateur Club

Grassroots Members About UEFA

This year’s winner of the UEFA Grassroots Award for best amateur club, GOALS – the Girls of Armenia Leadership Sports Educational Foundation – gives girls in Armenia the chance to change historical and cultural norms through grassroots football.

2023/24 UEFA Grassroots Awards: Best Amateur Club

"Unfortunately, in the Armenian context and culture, historically daughters are not necessarily the source of pride in households," explains Teny Avakian, CEO of GOALS – the Girls of Armenia Leadership Sports Educational Foundation.

GOALS was launched in 2016 as a response to this perception and the subsequent lack of opportunities for girls to partake in sport in Armenia. It provides football activities for girls aged ten to 17, aiming to promote gender equality through sport. Its positive impact has been wide-ranging and substantial, and this has been recognised with the 2023/24 UEFA Grassroots Award for best amateur club.

"Now we have our girls playing on the field and participating in youth tournaments and games, we have slowly shifted that mindset," says Avakian. "Our daughters and our girls are becoming a source of pride."

Football opportunities in rural Armenia

GOALS is dedicated to developing football opportunities and programmes for young women in rural Armenia. They have established girls’ leagues in eight of Armenia’s eleven regions, involving more than 800 players, and organise regular training sessions and camps as well as social and leadership initiatives. The foundation even hosts the GOALS National Cup every year in partnership with the Football Federation of Armenia.

"In the rural communities in Armenia there are very few sports facilities available," says Avakian. "But if you have a field and you have a ball, then you can organise football. So, we started our efforts in rural communities across Armenia."

This year GOALS plans to organise 20 football festivals across the country. Each festival will host four different communities, with a mix of boys and girls. It is hoped that as many as six new teams will be formed following the festivals.

"Football gave me freedom, courage, bravery, willpower and the ability to overcome. Even if I don’t play football later, football has already changed my life."

GOALS player Anna, 17

Integrating refugees through football

Although GOALS was founded with a focus on football opportunities for girls, the recent large influx of refugees to Armenia has seen the organisation widen its approach.

Refugee children are welcomed into local communities through newly founded football teams that include local children, aiming to create a sense of belonging and promote physical and mental well-being.

"As an organisation that strongly believes in an inclusive and equal space, we wanted to make sure that we were inclusive of all of the kids," explains Avakian. "Our aim is to help these children integrate into their new communities. We want the children who have moved to feel like they're at home," she adds. "We think that the best way to do that is to not only play with a team among their peers, but represent a community.

"That sense of belonging, that sense of pride that comes with representing your community at a game, is an amazing tool," explains Avakian. "Representing a team can really help these kids shift their mindset from being a refugee to now being part of the community."

Facilitating football coach development

It’s not just players who benefit from the work of GOALS. Working with children who have experienced trauma and displacement can be a challenging task, and so GOALS provides its volunteer coaches with bespoke education.

"We have worked with an organisation called I-activism, who specialise in training coaches to specifically work with children who have been displaced," explains Avakian.

"All of our coaches are volunteers and we strongly believe that the quality of our coaches is what is going to make or break what we do. We're trying to invest as much as possible into coach development."

Best amateur club 2023/24: bronze and silver winners

🥈 Silver: Curracloe United AFC (Republic of Ireland)

🥉 Bronze: FK Ataka (Lithuania)

What are the UEFA Grassroots Awards?

The UEFA Grassroots Awards are annual awards given to grassroots football clubs and projects that have made outstanding contributions to the game across Europe. Candidates are nominated by Europe’s national football associations, with the winners selected by UEFA’s Development and Technical Assistance Committee following recommendations from UEFA’s Grassroots Panel.

This year, the UEFA Grassroots Awards are presented in partnership with EA SPORTS FC, as part of the broader partnership between the UEFA Grassroots programme and EA SPORTS FC FUTURES. Each gold winner receives a prize of €10,000 to further contribute to their fantastic work being carried out.

Since their launch in 2010, 142 UEFA Grassroots Awards have been presented to winners from 42 UEFA member associations.