European football‘s governing body has launched a brand-new programme, UEFA ASSIST, to support other football confederations with knowledge-sharing, development and education opportunities.
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Promoting, protecting and developing football is one of UEFA’s central objectives, and to complement all the work done in Europe, UEFA has created a global programme which will increase solidarity and put Football First around the world.
“The main objective of UEFA ASSIST is to share our knowledge and best practices with other confederations,” says Zoran Laković, director of national associations at UEFA. “Through this exchange, we help develop and strengthen football worldwide, and support the success of our fellow confederations.”
UEFA ASSIST is designed to provide practical rather than financial assistance, and to offer support through development activities. It is composed of four pillars, each providing specific support to national associations and confederations worldwide:
Education and knowledge-sharing: The objective of this pillar is to provide experience and training for associations on and off the pitch, as well as access to UEFA’s educational programmes.
Development of youth football: Youth development tournaments staged under UEFA ASSIST allow young players to gain the experience of regularly playing in a competitive environment. It also gives them exposure to different cultures, and increases their opportunities to network.
Infrastructure: The programme supports and co-finances football infrastructure projects that provide immediate benefits to the member associations and confederations.
UEFA member association support: European football associations are being encouraged to develop their own assistance programmes with associations outside the European territory.
Under-15 development tournament in Argentina
The first UEFA ASSIST project was an Under-15 development tournament, organised in association with CONMEBOL and the Argentinian Football Association. All ten South American national teams and two European sides – Croatia and the Czech Republic – took part in the competition, which was played in the cities of Mendoza and San Juan in Argentina from 4 to 17 November.
Against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains, Argentina lifted the Sudamericano U15 trophy in an unforgettable final, beating rivals Brazil at Estadio del Bicentenario in San Juan. The night could not have been better for the local team, who came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
“This was a very interesting experience, which points towards greater integration and interchange,” said UEFA ambassador and former French national player David Trezeguet, who spent time with the squads. “Two continents willing to learn, willing to listen and showing a great deal of professionalism. It is inspiring to see that the development system available to these kids is more solid than what I had in my early years.” In his talks, Trezeguet underlined the importance of respect, eating well and thinking as a group, not as individuals.
This was the first time that most of the young players had travelled abroad and interacted with other nationalities, and they fully embraced and enjoyed the opportunity. The Czech and Argentinian players-shared the same joint activities organised by the hotel, and despite speaking different languages, they had a great time. The Czech team visited a nearby paediatric hospital and created a joyous atmosphere while distributing small presents to the young patients.
“Working with UEFA is fundamental from many perspectives,” said CONMEBOL’s director of competitions, Hugo Figueredo. ”This could be an exciting first step in terms of future collaboration, and it has set an example of how a tournament of this kind can be excellently organised.”
As well as playing competitive football and visiting local community structures, the participants took part in various educational workshops focusing on social development, nutrition and health, while dedicated seminars were also organised for the coaches, referees and administrators involved.
“The tournament was about bringing together 10 Latin American teams from the CONMEBOL confederation and two European teams,” said Eva Pasquier, head of international relations at UEFA. “Of course, it’s quite a competitive tournament, as the teams are trying their best to win the trophy. But the tournament is also about meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and learning about new ways of playing. For me, it’s this exchange that UEFA is offering through this tournament that is very important. In the end, we’re one big football family.”