Activities celebrating grassroots football, promoting the key message that football is accessible and open to everyone, have taken place as part of UEFA Grassroots Day across Europe.
Although officially on 22 May, UEFA Grassroots Day events were organised before and after this date all over the continent. In London, the day after the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley, the link between the elite and grassroots levels of the game was highlighted by a special grassroots-themed day as part of the UEFA Champions Festival.
An under-eight tournament for boys and girls, as well as a competition specifically for under-11 girls, were two of the highlights of the day at the Stratford site, close to the Olympic Stadium. Football for the disabled was also a feature, with England's most-capped unsighted player, Dave Clarke, taking on the youngsters present in an unsighted penalty shoot-out session.
Away from London, the Irish Football Association (IFA) was one of the first of UEFA's member associations to organise activities for the fourth UEFA Grassroots Day. An all-day event in Northern Ireland was arranged for schoolchildren, local community groups and families in Londonderry which included a skills zone, as well as health and wellbeing and education areas, the latter of which offered advice on issues including grassroots coaching and child protection awareness.
Lee Carroll, head of grassroots at the IFA, said: "Grassroots day is a fantastic opportunity for us to join with the rest of Europe in celebrating and acknowledging the importance of grassroots football in Northern Ireland. All the kids had a great time, and the format provided an ideal opportunity for local coaches to access relevant information and also update their qualifications."
In Wales, a National Disability School Festival was staged in Aberystwyth alongside activities for around 500 primary school children, with the emphasis on fun and participation, and in the Czech Republic, youngsters took part in training activities and matches.
The Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) was one of the most active associations, organising activities in all regions of the country. In the capital, Kyiv, matches were arranged between youth teams, sports journalists, FFU employees and disabled children, with all participants ending the day with a special diploma.
In Montenegro, around 200 boys and girls aged between six and 15 from football clubs all over the country took part in tournaments in Cetinje, on a day that also marked the nation's Independence Day. Meanwhile, in bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina, over 1,000 children aged eight to ten and 100 coaches, leaders and volunteers were involved in 87 small-sided matches in the town of Sokolac.
Another part of UEFA Grassroots Day since it began in 2010 has been the donation by UEFA of maxi-pitches to the host cities of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League finals. This tradition continued this season as London and Amsterdam were provided with pitches that will leave a legacy of the finals and provide local youngsters with a safe and accessible place to play football.
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