The crucial area of youth football is in the spotlight at UEFA's headquarters in Switzerland over the next few days – starting with a seminar commemorating the past 50 years of the youth game as UEFA continues its Jubilee year.
Coaches and experts
The seminar, entitled 'UEFA Youth Football – A Celebration', will take place at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon on Friday and Saturday. This event, which will be attended by national youth coaches and experts from throughout Europe, will not only review the development of youth football since UEFA's birth in 1954, but will also examine the situation of the youth game at the present time, and offer questions about the future of this essential component of the game.
UEFA has been operating European youth competitions virtually since its conception. In the years since 1954, the nature of junior international football has changed from being based on friendly matches to a championship format. The European youth competitions also act as a valuable shop window showcasing the stars of the future.
"We have already celebrated the top élite game with the EURO final round in Portugal, so we thought that it would also be appropriate in UEFA's Jubilee year to celebrate youth football, which is an activity that is at the core of UEFA's business," said UEFA's technical director, Andy Roxburgh.
"For UEFA, day-to-day life in 2004 is not made up only of major events, as events such as these are only possible if the necessary foundations are in place," said UEFA President Lennart Johansson and Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson in their message to the seminar. "The European football landscape today is characterised by the myriad of youth/amateur competitions and grassroots activities on which the future development of our game depends.
"Alongside the profusion of jubilee activities in the member associations, UEFA has therefore decided to pay a special tribute to the work that is done in youth football in the form of this Golden Jubilee seminar," they add.
The seminar will coincide with the final of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship between Spain and Turkey, which will take place opposite UEFA's headquarters at the Stade de Colovray in Nyon on Saturday evening, and the agenda also features a review of technical and tactical trends at the Under-19 final round in Switzerland. Bernard Challendes, the coach of the Swiss Under-21 team, will be giving his viewpoint on the action and tactics on the field over the past two weeks.
In addition to looking at the present and the past, the seminar will also examine where youth football is going in the coming years. "We have a number of provocative questions that will be raised at the event – so there will also be a serious purpose to the seminar as well as a sense of enjoyment," Roxburgh added.
By way of an example, delegates will debate how tactical and technical developments at major final rounds filter down to youth levels. At the recent EURO 2004™ final round in Portugal, the successful teams were those who could ally technique to speed of action and thought. "The combination of skill and speed has also been evident in the U19 competition," the UEFA technical director reflected.
The youth coaches will be invited to take part in a grassroots training session featuring various exercises. "The session goes under the banner of 'The Way We Were'," said Roxburgh. "We want to remind the participants of how they started out in football."
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