UEFA.com spoke to Helmut Duckadam, FC Steaua Bucureşti president Valeriu Argaseala and an intrepid Chelsea FC fan about the benefits of the UEFA Youth League.
Article top media content
There is sightseeing, the chance to sample the local cuisine, maybe the opportunity to renew acquaintances with fellow travellers. Now, with the introduction of the UEFA Youth League, supporters can also fill the hours before the excitement of a UEFA Champions League game with another match.
For veteran Chelsea FC fan Robert Stein, faced with the alternative prospect of spending the afternoon watching the rain tumble down on Bucharest this week, it was a no-brainer. The decision to organise a car and driver to ferry him the 30km or so to Mogosoaia to watch the London club's youngsters in action against FC Steaua Bucureşti was well rewarded as Chelsea ran out 4-0 winners.
Stein, a banker who has established contacts at most of Europe's leading sides, extolled the benefits of the new competition and believes it can mould youngsters into better players. "It will help their development, giving them experience of playing against players of other countries with different systems," he said. "And for the supporters the chance to take in a Youth League game on the afternoon of a Champions League fixture is great because it adds another dimension to a foreign trip."
Also in attendance on Tuesday were Steaua president Valeriu Argaseala and Helmut Duckadam, the former Steaua goalkeeper who earned heroic status by saving all four FC Barcelona penalties in the 1986 European Champion Clubs' Cup final shoot-out in Seville – ensuring the trophy went to eastern Europe for the first time.
Duckadam, a Steaua ambassador, said: "It's a great experience for these players and vital for our boys to have the experience of playing against sides like Chelsea. We have some talented players at Steaua and it's very important for them to be in these competitions to keep developing."
Meanwhile, Argaseala stressed his delight at the tournament which he described as "both important and necessary", adding: "Apart from what it gives the players, it is important for the clubs and the coaches. The exchange of information is valuable, as is the experience of different sporting cultures."
Two goals apiece for John Swift and Alex Kiwomya kept Chelsea at the head of Group E along with FC Schalke 04. Both have maximum points from two matches. "These games are like a breath of fresh air, the attitude of the players is first class," said Stein.