UEFA's campaign to nurture Europe's football coach education standards has met with a positive response from the European national associations who have been taking part in the governing body's student exchange programme, endorsed by the UEFA Executive Committee.
The student exchange scheme for UEFA Pro licence candidates has been officially launched for the 2011/12 season after two pilot events this summer. Participants on each course come from three or four European national associations and are led by their respective FA course directors. UEFA appoints experienced tutors/coach educators to work with UEFA's technical director and UEFA's football education services at the events, with members of UEFA's Jira Panel also actively involved along with guest presenters.
The project's objective is to give UEFA Pro licence students opportunities for international knowledge exchange as well as the chance to enjoy direct access to UEFA tutors and content as part of their education as coaches.
Technical representatives from the Cyprus Football Association (KOP/CFA) came to the first course of 2011/12 at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, together with their counterparts from Kazakhstan, Belarus and Moldova. The Cypriot representatives were fulsome in praising the aims and spirit of their four-day course, held in the last week of September.
"We have to offer thanks to UEFA for giving us the chance to travel to Nyon and to see how other national associations organise their courses for Pro licence students," said KOP/CFA technical director Stavros Stylianou . "Thanks to UEFA's support, our education programmes and our coaching school are in much better shape than they were five years ago.
"First of all, UEFA sent excellent tutors to Cyprus to assess what we were doing and to help us improve. And now the chance to continue this development at a top-level course in Nyon is another important step in the right direction. I am convinced that our country is now equipped to 'fly solo' and to organise coach education courses up to UEFA standards."
A major boost for the KOP/CFA and its coaches has been the breakthrough for teams from the island in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. "It's an indication that standards in Cyprus are improving all the time," said Stylianou, "and we have to stimulate this development. That's why it has been so important to take a strong squad of Pro licence students to Nyon in order to give them further incentives.
"To make contact with students from three other countries has been important and it has been very valuable to be able to examine the trends and demands of the modern game in an international context. All of them went home with a lot of very positive benefits and a lot of very good memories of a top-quality international course."
Former Polish national team coach Jerzy Engel – who coached five Cypriot clubs over eleven seasons in total – reflected positively on the scheme, having contributed his vast experience to the UEFA programme since its inception.
"This has been very important for football in Cyprus because they have a lot of talented coaches who, unfortunately, weren't able to coach the top teams because they didn't have a Pro licence," he said. This led to an influx of foreign coaches.
"Cyprus was equipped to issue licences up to UEFA A level but didn't have the resources to conduct Pro licence courses," he added. "The national association needed assistance from external tutors – and UEFA supplied this assistance. So, thanks to UEFA, the situation has changed and most of the coaches in the top division are now Cypriots and they're doing well. This is a sign that the standard of the Pro licence course in Cyprus is now high.
"Since the Pro licence course has been in place, access has been difficult because so many coaches have wanted to take part. That was why such stringent criteria had to be fulfilled to make sure that the course was of the highest possible quality. The seminar in Nyon provided us with proof that the Pro licence students from Cyprus are genuinely top quality – and this is immensely positive for the future of football in Cyprus."
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