The vital importance of grassroots football is central to this week's packed UEFA agenda of events on and off the field. The latest edition of the UEFA Grassroots Newsletter highlights Wednesday's UEFA Grassroots Day throughout Europe and looks back at the recent UEFA Grassroots Workshop in Oslo.
UEFA's fourth Grassroots Day celebrates the joy of football and that the game is open to everyone. An annual undertaking, UEFA Grassroots Day was created by European football's governing body to emphasise its commitment to the sport's foundations. A regular fixture on the Wednesday before the UEFA Champions League final, it relays the important message that elite football cannot flourish without healthy grassroots – and that all of today's superstars began playing at grassroots level.
It also underlines the unstinting efforts and essential contribution of thousands of volunteers. This work was recognised at the UEFA Grassroots Workshop in the Norwegian capital last month, where a group of deserving people were honoured with this season's UEFA Grassroots Day Awards
In his Grassroots Newsletter editorial, UEFA chief technical officer Ioan Lupescu writes: "Offering 'fun football' opportunities to men, women, boys, girls, the socially underprivileged or those with impaired abilities is a task which is usually about the passion, enthusiasm and incredible work ethic of the men and women who make vital contributions as volunteers. In many national associations, there is not a volunteer culture to match that of [Norway]. So that is something that, as we work together to nurture grassroots football throughout Europe, we need to develop.
"Some national associations – including major nations like Germany – hold annual award ceremonies to thank volunteers for their efforts," Lupescu adds. "UEFA has been at the forefront in this respect and is encouraging all national associations to follow suit. For the first time, our annual grassroots awards were presented during the workshop in Oslo and, to highlight the importance we give them, a footballing legend, Gianni Rivera, was on stage to present them. It was good to reward hard work. And it was good to demonstrate that hard work at grassroots level is extremely rewarding."
The newsletter details the events taking place on UEFA Grassroots Day, some of them in London – venue for this week's UEFA Women's Champions League and UEFA Champions League finals. These include UEFA Champions Festival activities – skills clinics, training sessions with professional coaches and, in conjunction with UEFA Grassroots Day, specific women's football and futsal days.
"The outstanding success of UEFA's decision to peg a Grassroots Day and a Champions Festival to the UEFA Champions League final has highlighted the value of the big events in the footballing calendar in terms of promoting grassroots activities," is the UEFA Grassroots Newsletter's view.
"The aggregate result is an impressive total of grassroots events which are being pegged to UEFA's two major club finals. The reason for listing them is not only to highlight the events themselves but also to illustrate the importance of exploiting the big events to offer something special to the players who form the broad base of the footballing pyramid and to encourage more youngsters to engage in a game which contributes to healthy lifestyles and social values."
The latest newsletter also carries features on the splendid grassroots work of the associations in Sweden, Northern Ireland and Norway and a full rundown on the Oslo Grassroots Workshop, including the insightful on-stage discussion involving Fernando Hierro, Stig Inge Bjørnebye and Lupescu – three leading former players for Spain, Norway and Romania respectively, who amassed 239 international appearances between them.
The UEFA Grassroots Newsletter is a must-read for anyone who has the game's soul at heart.
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