UEFA and the Croatian Football Union (HNS) gave 80 school children an unforgettable opportunity to compete against former European football stars at a football festival on the island of Hvar on 20 September.
Croatian legend Zvonimir Boban and UEFA women’s football manager Nadine Kessler joined Luís Figo, Davor Šuker, Dejan Savićević, Darijo Srna, Robbie Keane and UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin in a series of entertaining and emotional matches with the player from 12 to 13 years old. youth.
The festival, themed “Football for All”, brought together schoolchildren from Hvar and children with Down syndrome from Split to demonstrate the power of football to unite people around values such as inclusion, respect and kindness.
Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA President
“Football goes far beyond national team and club competitions. UEFA’s mission is to promote football at all levels, including grassroots level. Today we saw great football – the kind of football we want to see. It’s more than sport, it’s a passion.
The initiative also put the spotlight on UEFA’s school football programme. This four-year European development program aims to promote the teaching of football values - fair play, respect, teamwork and leadership – in schools and to encourage healthy and active lifestyles.
Schools, parents and children across Europe now support this programme: over 2.4 million children, over 44,000 schools and over 100,000 teachers have already participated in 45 Member Associations.
Nadine Kessler, UEFA Women’s Football Manager
“The Football at School program is important for the future development of grassroots football. It had a tangible and immediate impact on local people, as evidenced by the laughter of the children here today. It’s also a real opportunity for them to get involved in football from an early age.”
Frank Ludolph, UEFA Technical Development Manager
“Grassroots football encompasses football outside the elite and professional levels. It is crucial to start supporting people at school – this way football becomes a positive experience and appropriate contacts are made with clubs.
What is the UEFA Schools Football Programme?
Alongside coach education and club development, school football is an important part of the UEFA Grassroots Charter. From 2020 to 2024, European football’s governing body is investing €11m in the scheme, a quarter of the total €44m set aside to support grassroots football.
The program is an example of how UEFA uses UEFA European Football Championship proceeds to fund football projects across Europe through its HatTrick development programme.
UEFA Croatia School Football Program
- Four field project coordinators
- Over 30 grassroots clubs in 16 of the 21 regional associations
- 188 participating schools
- 1,855 boys and 408 girls
- 18 national tournaments before the semi-national competition
- Four regional semi-national competitions and one national competition
UEFA Schools Football Program 2020-24: Europe (expected figures)
- Associations investing in school football: 55
- Number of participating children: >2.8 million
- Number of schools with school football activities: >81,000
- Number of teachers trained: >63,000
- Total investments: > 24 million euros
- UEFA investments: > €11 million
- National associations: > 6.5 million euros
- Governments and other institutions: > 6.5 million euros
If not, how does the HNS invest in grassroots football?
1. UEFA Playmaking Program
The HNS recently completed its first edition of the UEFA Playmakers programme. This initiative aims to help girls aged five to eight learn about football through Disney stories in a fun and safe environment.
Achievements from the program’s first year included: 80% of girls who attended a Playmakers training session had never played football before; 10% of participants then joined a local women’s soccer club. Later this month, the second edition of the Playmakers program begins with ten training sessions based on the Disney movie Frozen 2, followed by the third edition in spring 2023 based on the movie Moana.
2.Plazma Youth Sports Games 2022
The Youth Sports Games, the biggest amateur sporting event for children and young people in Europe, has been taking place in Croatia since 1996. Over the past 25 years, more than two million children have taken part.
With the support of the UEFA Foundation for Children, the event will take place in three countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia). A healthy lifestyle, friendship and fair play are promoted in ten disciplines. In 2022, 230,000 children from Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in this event.
3. New Training Grounds
Investing in infrastructure is crucial for the continued growth of Croatian football. The HNS is using funds from the HatTrick program to fund new grassroots club training grounds in all 21 regions of the country.
“We are investing the proceeds from the UEFA European Football Championship in a long-term project to ensure that the country’s 21 regions have at least five new training grounds,” the HNS chairman said. , Marijan Kustic.
To date, the HNS has funded the construction of 16 sites in 14 regions; in the other seven regions, at least one new place is expected to be completed by summer 2023.
With the construction of this new infrastructure, grassroots participation is expected to increase significantly due to reduced pitch maintenance costs for smaller clubs and enabling them to train and play matches even in the cold and wet Croatian winter.