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Europe’s national team coaches to support UEFA health campaign

Football coaches from four national associations urge young people to follow the best tactics for a healthy life: play more sport, eat nutritious food, limit or avoid alcohol intake, don’t smoke and keep a good work-life balance.

Louis Van Gaal's #PlayWellFeelWell message to Europe's young people
Louis Van Gaal's #PlayWellFeelWell message to Europe's young people

What is UEFA’s new health campaign?

The #FeelWellPlayWell campaign will invite national coaches representing all 55 UEFA member associations to use their visibility and voices to encourage young people in their countries to make healthy choices early in life.

UEFA will ask coaches to support the campaign by recording a short video that explains the importance of playing sport, following a healthy diet, limiting or avoiding alcohol intake, not smoking and maintaining work-life balance. From December 2021, their associations will share the message with fans, grassroots clubs, coaches, schools, etc. through social media, websites and newsletters.

The campaign will culminate on World Health Day 2022 (7 April) with a special event organised by UEFA and its 55 member associations.

What is the focus of the campaign’s health messages?

Working with the Italian non-governmental organisation Fondazione Insieme Contro il Cancro (Together against Cancer Foundation), UEFA has provided coaches with educational messages to deliver through their videos. Based on the latest scientific knowledge and guidance, these focus on four health topics:

Physical activity
Nutrition
Mental health
Substance abuse, particularly alcohol and tobacco

Why UEFA?

Health and well-being are fundamental to sport, and UEFA promotes the benefits and importance of following active, healthy lifestyles by playing football. Our health and well-being policy is one of 11 underlying a new Responsibility pillar that the Executive Committee added to UEFA’s Together for the Future of Football strategy in April 2021.

UEFA recognises that football’s enormous popularity and influence brings a responsibility that the sport’s governing body cannot ignore: to serve as a role model and voice for positive change on global issues.

Michele Uva, Director of Football Social Responsibility, UEFA

"Preserving young people’s health matters more than ever, both on and off the pitch. UEFA wants to raise awareness of the physical and mental health benefits of playing football."

Who is supporting the campaign’s launch?

Coaches from four associations – Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland and Slovenia – have signed up to take part in a pilot phase of the campaign, which was launched on 12 October.

UEFA expects to expand Coaches for Health – #FeelWellPlayWell to involve all 55 football associations in Europe before the end of the year.

Italian Football Federation (FIGC)

Coaches for Health

 Milena Bertolini  and Roberto Mancini
Milena Bertolini and Roberto Mancini Getty Images

Roberto Mancini, men’s senior team

"Be active and practice sport for at least 60 minutes every day. You will feel stronger, more dynamic and with more energy. Like true champions!"

Milena Bertolini, women’s senior team

"Did you know that what you eat affects your mood, your sleep quality and your attention levels? If you drink water and eat fresh unprocessed foods, you will bring out all your energy on and off the pitch."

How else does the FIGC use football to protect health?

The FIGC Youth and School Department (Settore Giovanile) uses its local development centres - Centri Federali Territoriali - and football schools to educate young players on health and well-being. Initiatives include:

Videos promoting healthy lifestyles and good habits for young people.

WELL-BEING programme created by the FIGC with UEFA’s financial support in 2017, which provides educational materials for youth and school sector players, parents, coaches and sports clubs on nutrition, relationships and emotions as well as physical activity.

Un Gol per la Salute (A Goal for Health): an annual competition run with UNICEF, in which 16–18 year-olds and their school teachers produce a video about protecting health. The top three entries attend a two-day course at the federation’s Coverciano technical centre in Florence.

Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB)

Coaches for Health

Louis Van Gaal, men’s senior team

"I have an important message for all young people. Too many youngsters are exercising too little which worries me. It feels good to be active. Even simple activities can make you healthy and strong. Play football. Go running. Climb the stairs at home! Stay active and move for 60 minutes every day."

Max Tjaden Netherlands men's futsal coach
Max Tjaden Netherlands men's futsal coachGetty Images

Max Tjaden, men’s Futsal

"Playing sports, football, being active is good for your health, so we encourage everyone to be as active as possible. We also think it is important to pay attention to a healthy sports environment, whether it's field football or futsal, children or adults."

How else does the KNVB use football to protect health?

The KNVB’s FC VERS (Fresh Football Clubs) programme works with Dutch grassroots clubs to ensure they serve refreshments to players and fans in a healthy environment. Clubs are encouraged to limit smoking and consumption of alcohol and offer more nutritious food.

Northern Irish Football Association (IFA)

Coaches for Health

Northern Ireland men's coach Ian Baraclough
Northern Ireland men's coach Ian Baraclough PA Images via Getty Images

Ian Baraclough, men’s senior team

"We all know that drinking alcohol is bad for your body. So if you are going to do it, do it in moderation. What you eat has a direct impact on your mood, your sleep and your attention span. So make sure you get plenty of it (sleep). Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. If you’ve got problems or need to speak to somebody, don’t hesitate to ask."

How else does the IFA use football to protect health?

As part of its mental health programme "Ahead of the Game", the Irish FA’s Foundation has been working to create a network of mental health champions who work together to promote mental wellbeing, challenge the stigma around mental health issues and train key stakeholders such as coaches to recognise the signs.

Football Association of Slovenia (NZS)

Coaches for Health

Slovenia men's coach Matjaž Kek
Slovenia men's coach Matjaž Kek AFP via Getty Images

Matjaž Kek, men’s senior team

"There is no safe amount of alcohol for the body. You wouldn’t think of drinking disinfectant, right? This is essentially what you are doing, indulging in beer, wine or liquors. Reach out for help."

Milenko Ačimovič, men’s Under-21 team

"There is nothing wrong with not feeling right. Coping with problems does not make you weak. There are ways to deal with problems and things can get better. Ask for help."

Borut Jarc, women’s senior team

"What you eat, directly impacts your development, sleep and concentration. Drinking water and eating unprocessed food, raises your energy in and outside the game."

How else does the NZS use football to protect health?

Slovenian Heart Foundation: joint three-week campaign to set personal activity goals for school children and their parents; information brochure helping the elderly recognise, prevent or cure heart disease.

National youth league, cadet league, professional leagues for men and women: alongside a national anti-doping organisation called SLOADO, the federation educates footballers how to eat more healthily and to avoid harmful substances.

Youth football and grassroots club network: teaching coaches, parents and teachers to encourage young people to have an active lifestyle.

How will UEFA measure the impact of its Coaches for Health campaign?

We will use social media and web metrics as well as track European media coverage of the campaign.

How does UEFA ensure that European football coaches, particularly at grassroots level, are properly equipped to educate young children about physical fitness and staying healthy?

Health and well-being are embedded in the national associations' coach education curriculum, particularly at grassroots level.

Is the campaign linked to any other pan-European health initiatives?

Coaches for Health – #FeelWellPlayWell represents UEFA’s official pledge to the European Commission’s HealthyLifestyle4All campaign, which has similar goals and encourages organisations, civil society and public authorities to promote the long-term benefits of sport and healthy lifestyles.

HealthyLifestyle4All was launched last month at a special event in the Slovenian town of Bled that kicked off the European Commission’s annual European Week of Sport.

Promoting active, healthy lifestyles is a key objective of UEFA’s 2014 cooperation agreement with the European Union. Each year, UEFA schedules its own Grassroots Football Week, which promotes playing football as part of an active lifestyle, to run parallel to the European Week of Sport.