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An idea that originated in 2003 from the wish of former Dutch international Aaron Winter to give something back to the game, the Cruyff Courts initiative has since grown into an award-winning project which has afforded youngsters all over the world the chance to play football.
A programme subsequently developed by the Johan Cruyff Foundation with the support of the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB), the Cruyff Courts are public playgrounds that provide a safe area for children and local communities to play not only football but all sports. As an indicator of how the scheme has blossomed, the mini-pitches now exist in places as far-flung as Brazil, South Africa and the Netherlands Antilles, while Israel is planned to be the next location on a list currently numbering 130.
"The Cruyff Courts are an important place to get children to play football," the KNVB's football development coordinator Corné Groenendijk told the UEFA Training Ground. "There are often clubs outside the cities in special places on the outskirts which are difficult to reach. But the Cruyff Courts are in the cities, so we can organise activities there which bring football closer to children, and that also makes it easier to accompany kids at clubs. So the Cruyff Courts make an important contribution."
A message of fair play is at the heart of the Cruyff Courts, with a chart of 14 rules positioned next to every mini-pitch. "These are life rules," explained Ilja van Holsteijn from the Johan Cruyff Foundation. "For example, that you have to play together, that fair play is important, that it's important to coach each other and respect. These are all themes which are important on the Cruyff Courts, and the people organising things can use these life rules to teach the children and the young players who play there."
UEFA has helped the Cruyff Courts to grow with funding through its UEFA HatTrick assistant project, while European football's governing body recognised the contribution the initiative has made to young people by handing it the UEFA Grassroots Award. The prize was presented at the opening of the 100th Cruyff Court in October 2009.
"Winning the UEFA Grassroots Award is recognition by UEFA of the work we do. By receiving such an award it only confirms that we're doing well, and it gives us inspiration to continue and do even more than we do now," said Van Holsteijn.
Watch the UEFA Training Ground's feature on the Cruyff Courts now.
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