UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

UEFA Grassroots Awards 2023/24: Best Education Initiative

Grassroots About UEFA Members

The Italian Football Federation’s Calcio+15 programme – the winner of this year’s UEFA Grassroots Award for best education initiative – is ensuring that the future is bright for young female football players in Italy.

UEFA Grassroots Awards 2024: Best Education Initiative

Across Italy, women and girls are being empowered to make the most of their potential in football through Calcio+15, a programme dedicated to the holistic education of people involved in the women’s game.

Calcio+15 is run by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), focusing primarily on the technical and personal growth of Under-15 women’s players. It promotes their development as individuals rather than simply as players.

The programme’s unique approach and success in delivering an all-round education to young female footballers in Italy has now been recognised with the 2023/24 UEFA Grassroots Award for best education initiative.

"We started the programme to give to players knowledge about more than football," says Massimo Tell, head of grassroots at the FIGC, who began working on the project in 2007.

"We wanted to cover topics that were related to football, such as the rules of the game, nutrition, lifestyle, psychology and tips about the future of football for girls’ and women's football development."

Elena Linari on Italy’s success

Holistic development for women’s football

Helping young female footballers achieve a better understanding of the varied career paths they can follow in the game is a crucial part of Calcio+15.

"It's very important for the girls to have awareness about the different opportunities they have," says Tell. "We think Under-15 and Under-16 is a good time for them to consider which pathway they may wish to take in the future."

Programme ambassadors – including current and former national team players – act as points of inspiration, providing insights into their own career journeys alongside advice from high-performing athletes outside of football.

"Current and former athletes – both men and women from other sports such as skiing, kayaking, athletics, rugby and many others – are involved in our programme," adds Tell. "They pass on their experience and provide an insight to the girls."

Linking grassroots and national team football

Eighteen Calcio+15 regional teams operating across Italy provide a link between local grassroots football clubs and the women’s national teams, aiming to provide as wide a pathway as possible for talented players.

That pathway has proved highly successful, with many graduates of the Calcio+15 programme now representing or working with the Italian national teams. Notably, 20 of the 25 players called up to Italy’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 squad came through the Calcio+15 programme.

"We have a great number of players who have gone through the programme who are now with the national teams," says Tell. "We also have many examples of individuals who are now working as a coach, doctor, physiotherapist, psychologist, team manager, journalist or referee. There are also lots of people who have been in our programme who have a job in a youth academy," explains Tell.

Take Nicole Peressotti, who won bronze medals at the UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and is now involved as an ambassador and physiotherapist with Calcio+15. Another former player, Valentina Casaroli, worked in the programme as a team manager and assistant coach before moving into a coaching role at AS Roma.

"The behaviour of the girls and women who play for our national teams is very important because they are setting an example for future generations. The legacy is very strong. And because they have been through the programme, they are very willing to offer their time and contribute to the development of the girls who are currently part of Calcio+15."

Massimo Tell, FIGC head of grassroots

Each regional team also acts as hub for knowledge-sharing with players, parents, coaches and administrators from the local region, who can access a series of educational workshops focusing on holistic player development.

"We wanted to educate the adults around the girls: coaches, managers, parents and all the people involved in the federation," explains Tell. "We needed to prepare these people to work all around Italy and to promote and support the pathway in women's football."

Best education initiative 2023/24: bronze and silver winners

🥈 Silver: Football in Schools (Armenia)

🥉 Bronze: Education and Employability Programme (Northern Ireland)

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.