The reservoir of young talent available in Europe should ensure that this continent will remain a football force in the foreseeable future.
State of play
The chairman of UEFA's Youth and Amateur Football Committee, Jim Boyce, expressed this view in assessing the current state of youth football at a special UEFA Jubilee seminar in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday.
"Europe's youngest footballers are doing very well indeed," said Boyce. "Recent matches in Portugal [at UEFA EURO 2004™] confirmed this - there were some very good examples of youth talents. There are also many more gifted young players available at this point in time to make sure that European football will remain on top of the football pyramid."
More mature than ever
Boyce said there was an increasing maturity among young footballers. "This has been the biggest change, and this is a great development," he reflected. "The youth game has changed dramatically - today's young players are very mature, technically well-developed and physically very strong. You can't believe that some of them are only 17 or 18 years of age."
One other major change within youth football, Boyce said, was in the area of education. "Most coaches of national teams, youth teams and top European clubs have played at a very high level in football, and more importantly, they have enjoyed first-class education," he said.
"The combination of better education, considerable financial investment, closer co-operation between football and school authorities, improved competition conditions, and greater awareness of the importance of youth football - this is very encouraging," Boyce continued. He also expressed the hope that clubs would readily release youngsters for major youth competitions. "There can be no greater honour for a young player than to be selected to play for his country," he said.
Boyce also praised UEFA's contribution to youth football. "UEFA's commitment and attitude to youth football is tremendous," he said. "Without that investment, we could not do what we are doing today."
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