The first day of the 8th UEFA Youth Conference in the Cypriot city of Limassol has been marked by a press conference attended on behalf of UEFA by Jim Boyce and Andy Roxburgh and George Fantaros, vice-president of the Cypriot Football Association (CFA).
UEFA technical director Roxburgh opened the press conference by looking back on the first UEFA Youth Conference, held in 1979. "I attended in my role as a youth coach with the Scottish Football Association," he said. "Since then, and particularly over the last decade, UEFA has increased the intensity and regularity of its development events, from teams in the UEFA Champions League right the way down to grassroots level.
Aim to improve
"These conferences now take place every two years," Roxburgh went on. "There are over 200 people here, including delegates, two representatives from each of our 52 member associations, clubs in the UEFA Champions League and officials from CAF and African football. This gives us the chance to discuss and improve a number of elements of youth football."
That last theme was quickly picked up by Boyce, chairman of UEFA's Youth and Amateur Football Committee. "UEFA is totally committed to the development of youth football," he said. "This conference, and other events like it, bring our 52 member associations together and allow us to take on board their views on how youth football can be made even better.
'Right behind us'
"In my mind, this last factor will be very difficult to achieve, as the standard is already excellent," Boyce continued. "UEFA President Lennart Johansson and the Executive Committee are right behind development football - there are now UEFA European Championships at Under-17 and U19 level every year, and the women's U19 finals is also an annual event while there is also a women's U17 finals in the pipeline. At this conference, we get the chance to collect people's views and I am glad of the chance to take those back to the Youth and Amateur Football Committee so we can listen to what our associations want to tell us."
'Pleasure and pride'
Fantaros then took the floor and was keen to convey the feelings of the Cypriot FA, saying: "It's a great pleasure for us to host such an important event. We feel proud and honoured to be entrusted by UEFA with staging an event of this size and magnitude."
The CFA vice-president went on to provide an outline of events over the next three days. The conference will officially open on Tuesday afternoon – starting with a minute's silence in memory of former Northern Irish international George Best and Guido Vantaggiato, ex-director of the Italian Football Federation's technical centre at Coverciano and a highly-respected figure in European coaching circles, both of whom died last week – and will then feature a presentation from Roxburgh on UEFA's development programme.
There will be further presentations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – including a practical coaching session – before the Elite round draws for the 2005/06 UEFA European U17 and U19 Championships are held on Wednesday evening. The qualifying draws for the 2006/07 editions of these tournaments will be the final event of the conference on Thursday evening.
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