UEFA President Michel Platini has visited Belarus and its capital Minsk to take part in the celebrations to mark the country's football centenary.
Together with the president of the Football Federation of Belarus (BFF), Sergei Roumas, he planted a capsule into the foundations of the future Belarusian national teams' training centre during a special ceremony.
The capsule holds a message to the next generations of Belarusian players. The centre, to be built with financial aid from UEFA, will have two artificial pitches and one natural pitch as well as a floodlighting system. There are also plans for a hotel, recreational centre and rooms for theoretical studies nearby, close to the existing BFF House of Football. The centre will be used by Belarus national sides of all ages, and also by local clubs and youth academies.
Mr Platini said: "We have made use of the occasion to lay the foundation for an excellent project for a new building. I remember opening the House of Football here some time ago. Now the construction of a new centre of technical excellence is being started next to it.
"This is a real progress. I believe that over recent times the level of Belarusian football has risen remarkably,” he added.
Of the new centre, Sergei Roumas said: "We have divided the process into two stages. First of all we will get the pitches done, then we will start to build the centre itself. We plan to finish everything in three to three and a half years." Facilities such as those planned in Belarus are given crucial financial help by UEFA as part of its HatTrick assistance programme.
The ceremony was attended by Igor Zaichkov, adviser to the president of Belarus on physical education, sport and tourism; FIFA and UEFA representatives; veterans of the Belarusian game; and many other dignitaries including European national association presidents and UEFA Executive Committee members.
After the festivities, they participated in an awards ceremony for the winners and players in a mini-tournament for pupils from sports academies in Minsk, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Belarusian football. Mr Platini embraced the opportunity to meet the young footballers, many of whom dream of becoming professional players in the future.
Speaking to the media, Mr Platini said that the current UEFA Champions League access format has helped countries such as Belarus, who are represented by FC BATE Borisov in this season's group stage. "This is good for the popularisation of football," he explained. The UEFA President concluded with the assurance that UEFA will continue to support the national associations through funding to develop their football infrastructures.
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