The 2013 UEFA Grassroots Day Awards have been revealed, with the best leaders, clubs and projects from around Europe recognised for their achievements in the grassroots game.
Gold awards go to nominees from Hungary, Netherlands and Turkey. The awards were presented at the UEFA Grassroots Workshop in Oslo on Tuesday by Italian football legend, winner of the 2011 UEFA President's Award and UEFA grassroots panel member Gianni Rivera.
UEFA's viewpoint is that elite football cannot flourish without a healthy grassroots, and the European body wishes to reward excellence in the grassroots sector. Each of the nominees was recommended by the UEFA Grassroots Panel and the UEFA Development and Technical Assistance Committee and ratified by the UEFA Executive Committee.
The Best Leader gold award went to Fikret Kadıoğlu (Turkey), a volunteer leader whose extraordinary organisational efforts provide football for 50% of the boys and girls in his region in the north-east of the country. Gerd Liesegang (Germany) and Ljubodrag Stanić (Serbia) won the silver and bronze awards respectively. The scheme was set up five years ago when almost 600 youngsters took part in an inaugural football festival.
"The thing that makes me happiest is that I get to see the smiles on the kids' faces, to know that what I am doing makes them happy," said Kadıoğlu. "Especially when a child is so excited that he or she cannot sleep at night, when parents tell me that kind of thing, I get really happy.
"Now the kids stay away from all kinds of bad behaviour. They have started to discover their own abilities. With this project, we gave them a chance to play, and that made them very happy. Also, we have a chance to recognise the talented children, and they have become part of official clubs, they have become registered players."
Gold in the Best Project category went to the Children's Homes Programme (Hungary), which offers a prime example of how grassroots football can bring joy to the lives of deprived youngsters. The Hungarian programme is a social project that provides regular football activity for children living in homes and orphanages. The Apuseni Mountains Championship (Romania) won silver, and the Project FUTSAL "Football Used Towards Social Advancement and Learning" (Republic of Ireland/Wales) won bronze.
"The main goals of this programme are the same philosophy as the main goals of our Grassroots Programme," said Tibor Őze, grassroots manager at the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ). "The Hungarian Football Federation's Grassroots Philosophy is that football is for everyone. Our main goal is that everybody, regardless of their abilities and skills, can find joy in football and can be part of the sport as a whole."
The Best Grassroots Club category's gold award was won by SV Wilp, SC Klarenbeek, SC Cupa & VV Voorst (Netherlands) – a multi-club approach putting aside local rivalries to ensure the provision of football for women and girls in their home region, and providing a best practice example for the rest of the country. Carshalton Athletic FC (England) and S.S. Sangiorgina (Italy) were winners of the silver and bronze awards respectively.
"There is equality; there are no differences," explained Gert van Bokhorst of Klarenbeek. "We all play sport for the joy of it, and that's what we show. We are a village community, but we have a regional attraction as well, for players to come and play here; in a positive way, because they all should be able to find a place to play. If you can play very well, or just normally, we have a place for everyone and that is what we transmit."
Roos Brouwer, football development assistant for the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB)'s eastern district, said: "The KNVB supports clubs at all levels of girls' and women's football. So we made a plan two years ago, and we said it should be easier for clubs to work together.
"It is very positive that girls' football is growing, and that girls can play everywhere, but if girls play everywhere, then that's only a few girls per club. But if clubs collaborate, then there are more girls, and there are more possibilities for those girls, to play at their level, or follow their preference."
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