The 10th UEFA Grassroots Programme was held in Oslo, Norway between the 8th and 12th April 2013.
Malta was one of the 53 member associations and was represented by Maria Mifsud, MFA Deputy General Secretary (Grassroots, Youth Development & Education), and Joe Micallef, General Secretary of the Youth FA and an MFA Executive Committee member.
Yngve Hallen, the Norway FA President and Per Ravn Omdal, UEFA honorary member and UEFA ambassador for Grassroots opened the 5-day activity and spoke about the importance of the Grassroots sector.
There were several presentations by the participants mostly related to women’s football, football for the disabled, futsal programmes in schools, the role of helpers in Grassroots Football and Elite Football for youths and coaches.
During the event UEFA announced the winners of the Grassroots Day Awards, with Holland taking the Gold Award followed by Hungary and Turkey.
All participating countries were given the opportunity to present a project on Grassroots Football, with the best projects being recognised through tokens presented by the legendary Italian national team player Gianni Rivera who presently occupies the post of technical director of Youth Football in Italy.
In his address Rivera spoke about his passion for football which led him to his successful career.
During two practical sessions, one at Ullevaal Stadium and the other at the school of football at Heming, the programme participants had the opportunity of watching various training sessions held for teams of different age-groups, including female teams which, incidentally, are making great progress as the number of Norwegian footballers in this sector is increasing.
Malta had the honour of being invited to share its experiences in women’s football, an occasion which had Maria Mifsud speaking on behalf of the Maltese female sector together with representatives of Montenegro, Iceland and Belarus.
Malta discussed recent programmes of strengthening women’s football in the form of a forum presided by Karen Espelund, a UEFA committee member responsible for women’s football in Europe.
Fernando Hierro, Stig Inge Bjornebye and Ioan Lupescu, well-known former footballers who are currently assisting their countries’ associations in Grassroots Football, presented their experiences and opinions about the future of the game.
A common factor which emerged here was that these players had their beginnings at grassroots level and went through difficult times before establishing themselves in their senior teams and after much determination despite the sacrifices they had to make. This helped them attain their peak in their football careers. They were now very satisfied that they can transmit their experiences and ideas to the many children and youths in their respective countries.
The programme in Norway also included discussion groups sessions, with the participants sharing their opinions about the present UEFA Charter for Grassroots. The idea of introducing a system of star awards similar to that existing in some countries gave rise to further discussion by a panel of experts present.
It was agreed that by the end of this year these experts were to submit a final draft which envisages these changes. This document still has to be approved by the UEFA Executive Committee and member associations.
In the final reckoning, this should bring about more discussion by the MFA resulting in reforms in this important sector, one to which our association is giving utmost importance. All in all it was evident that other associations have problems of a common nature which vary according to size and geographical features of their countries.
uefa.com interviewed the two Maltese representatives in Maltese and English with a view to eventually relaying these clips which relate to the organisation of the UEFA U-17 Finals to be held in Malta in May 2014. These interviews will also feature the benefits accrued through the UEFA Charter by small countries like Malta.
One can say with satisfaction that there were very favourable comments from UEFA with regard to Malta’s contribution during this fruitful event in Norway. This confirmed that although small in size our country is towing the lines set by UEFA at Grassroots level with a considerable degree of success.