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UEFA Grassroots Awards 2023/24: Best Participation Initiative

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A Kazakhstan Football Federation project that gives children from orphanages opportunities to play football has been recognised with the 2023/24 UEFA Grassroots Award for best participation initiative.

2023/24 UEFA Grassroots Awards: Best Participation Initiative

Inclusion, opportunity and solidarity are defining features of the Kazakhstan Football Federation’s (KFF) football festivals project, this year’s winner of the best participation initiative UEFA Grassroots Award.

The project sees hundreds of children from orphanages around Kazakhstan given the opportunity to take part in dedicated football festivals organised by the KFF. Nearly 1,200 children from across all regions of Kazakhstan have taken part in one of the football festivals, with 80-90 per cent of all eligible orphanages in Kazakhstan being involved in the project.

Prioritising inclusion

The festivals aim to provide a sense of community, increase children’s interest in sport and promote a healthy lifestyle. A range of specialised activities at each festival ensures that children of all ages and abilities can take part and benefit.

"The children in orphanages are of many different ages – usually six through to 18 years old. To cater for all these ages is a really difficult challenge," explains Nikita Mozgovoy, grassroots football department director at the KFF.

"We created a formula of playing zones and training zones," explains Mozgovoy. "There might be six or eight zones depending on how many children there are. Three or four zones would be dedicated to football training like dribbling skills or passing skills. We also have a number of playing zones that include flexible formats of football such as 6v6 and other fun themed games."

Professional role models

Players from the Kazakhstan national team, professional clubs and youth academies have all attended the festivals, with some playing in ‘all-star’ matches against the children. Providing young people with role models is a key part of the project, and with coaches from academies acting as volunteers in the programme, there are also opportunities for the players to take their football to the next level.

"We have coaches from football academies helping us out with the activity zones. If they see children that have talent they are invited into the football academies. Maybe in five or ten years’ time we will see some of these children in our national team."

"It’s good for children to see professional players who they want to be like. But, also, it is important for children to see a young player from their own age category – it allows the children to believe that this is possible for them."

Nikita Mozgovoy, KFF grassroots football director

Partnerships ensure long-term success

The project has been made possible through support from professional clubs and businesses, and local clubs are encouraged to continue relationships with the orphanages beyond the end of the festivals.

"One of the achievements we are proud about is that we operate with Kazakhstan clubs from the Premier League, and first and second division clubs. They join our social work and after the festivals they continue as mentors of each orphanage," explains Mozgovoy.

"Another achievement is that we connect with our business community and receive support for the programme. For example, after the events, some of the businesses will provide food or a dinner for the children."

Best participation initiative 2023/24: bronze and silver winners

🥈 Silver: DFB mobile football training for girls (Germany)

🥉 Bronze: My First Goal (Czechia)

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.