The UEFA Study Group Scheme, an innovative technical exchange programme, is now well into its third season, with national associations swapping technical know-how and experience in a variety of areas with the overall benefit of European football the ultimate objective.
The Study Group Scheme was launched on the initiative of UEFA president Michel Platini. Under the scheme, national associations visit their counterparts elsewhere for study visits or technical exchanges which focus on areas such as elite youth football, coach education, grassroots and the women's game.
Some 1,850 technicians are expected to participate in this much-heralded technical initiative during the current season. All of UEFA's 53 member associations are involved, with 28 FAs hosting visits. In addition, each member of the European governing body's Development and Technical Assistance Committee will take part in at least one seminar.
In one such seminar, concentrating on elite youth football, the Turkish Football Association (TFF) played host in Ankara to their colleagues from Georgia, Malta and Liechtenstein. The programme included a trip to an Under-17 training session at the MKE Ankaragücü training centre, as well as presentations on topics such as training young players for match conditions.
"It is my hope and wish that the coaches from Georgia, Malta and Liechtenstein benefited from the programme we put together for them, and can go back to their countries and put to use one or two good ideas," said TFF general director of football Ersun Yanal. "We are also pleased that the UEFA Study Group Scheme enhances communication between the national associations and strengthens the bond between us. [The scheme] gives us the opportunity to share our experiences and learn from each other."
"For a small country it is interesting to see how a successful country works with talented young players," said Liechtenstein's elite football head Rudolf Marxer.
"Hopefully the experience gained by the coaches during this UEFA study group will be shared with other coaches in their respective countries. This will help to disseminate what they learnt for the benefit of youth development in their country," explained the Malta Football Association (MFA) head of youth coaching Anthony Garzia.
The conditions offered in Turkey were excellent. "You feel more than comfortable studying, learning and implementing this new knowledge into your country's development," added Gaioz Darsadze from Georgia. "Sharing ideas, as one of the very important requirements of the Study Group Scheme, was an objective we achieved."
While the Ankara seminar was ongoing, two other Study Group Scheme seminars ran concurrently – in Greece (elite youth football) and the Czech Republic (grassroots). The following week association technicians from Romania, Serbia and Poland went to the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) technical centre in Coverciano for a visit centring on coach education, while elite youth football was on the agenda in the Republic of Ireland with Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Wales travelling to Dublin.
A total of 13 visits to other associations will take place before the end of the year.
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