Grassroots football celebrated in build-up to European football’s showpiece fixture.
In the lead-up to this week’s UEFA Champions League finals for men and women, the third UEFA Grassroots Day has highlighted the link between the elite and grassroots levels of the game, with Giovane Elber and Willy Sagnol involved in activities to mark the occasion in Munich.
Elber and Sagnol, who both played in the FC Bayern München team that won Europe’s elite club trophy in 2001, took part in a specially arranged skills clinic, offering inspiration to youngsters from local club FC Tirschenreuth with a 90-minute session as part of the UEFA Champions Festival.
Another grassroots highlight of the day was a mini Champions League tournament for local schools, organised by the Bavarian Football Association (BFV), with each team representing a club from this season’s UEFA Champions League. Meanwhile, youngsters were able to test their ability at a series of skills stations around the UEFA Champions Festival site at the Olympiapark.
As well as the activities taking place in Munich, the grassroots game was also celebrated across many of UEFA’s 53 member associations. In Scotland UEFA Grassroots Day was marked in Edinburgh’s Festival Square, where former Heart of Midlothian FC and Hibernian FC players Jimmy Sandison and Keith Wright gave a coaching session.
Wright, who made 197 appearances for Hibernian between 1991 and 1997, said: “UEFA Grassroots Day is a special day to raise awareness of the importance of football for young people.
“Today there are so many distractions like video games and television which keep kids inside, but if there is fun, open and accessible football opportunities we can increase the number of people playing the game and, in turn, see the health benefits to the country.”
Elsewhere, a schools’ football event for 400 children was arranged in Keuruu, Finland, a special festival took place in the Azeri city of Zaqatala and in Belgium, activities for six to 12-year olds were set up at professional clubs all over the country.
Meanwhile, in Slovenia, grassroots activities were arranged around the UEFA European Under-17 Championships final in Ljubljana, as well as nine regional football associations around the country.
An annual highlight of the football calendar since it was created in 2010, UEFA Grassroots Day emphasises UEFA’s commitment to the foundations of the game, while also relaying the important messages that elite football cannot flourish without healthy grassroots and that the game is open to everyone.
To find out more visit UEFA’s grassroots website.