The Finalissima represents a unique opportunity to see the reigning EURO champions take on the winners of the Copa America – a tectonic clash of football’s most successful continents. However, further down the football pyramid, elite youth players representing national teams from Europe and South America can regularly test their skills against one another thanks to UEFA’s assist development programme.
Since helping Czech and Croatian youth teams compete in the 2017 South American U15 youth championship in Argentina, Assist funding has enabled nine CONMEBOL member associations to take part in numerous UEFA U16 youth tournaments across Europe. Most recently, Brazil traveled to Wales last April to play the host nation, as well as Spain and Turkey.
Eva Pasquier, UEFA Head of International Relations
“These competitions help talented young players to grow on and off the pitch and often give them the opportunity to play in an international tournament for the first time. It’s an inspiring experience that opens a door to other playing styles and cultures.”
The tournaments are just one example of how the Assist program has fueled football development not only in South America, but also in football’s four other sister confederations and their respective member associations: AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (Northern and Central America) and OFC (Oceania).
“Sharing knowledge and creating opportunities for young players is vital to the development of football around the world,” said Nery Pumpido, Deputy Secretary General for Football and CONMEBOL Development Director. “CONMEBOL is pleased that the recent Memorandum of Understanding has further strengthened our cooperation with UEFA and its member associations.”
Building on its 2017 launch, Assist has reinvested UEFA revenue in 200 football development projects in 60 countries worldwide.
In addition to supporting national teams from around the world to compete in boys’ and girls’ tournaments, Assist initiatives also fund educational programs that improve capacity and professionalism in various areas of football management, as well as small infrastructure projects, such as installing floodlights or purchasing commercial vehicles . In South America, the program has supplied a minivan for each CONMEBOL member association. These serve a range of purposes from carrying official visitors to carrying grassroots teams to local competitions.
This season, Assist launched Football for Women – an educational initiative designed to help South American federations learn from the pioneering example of women’s football in Europe. The project started last month in Paraguay and Venezuela. Topics included: getting more young girls into football, developing a career path for top players and empowering women through football.
“This is an important step for the development of women’s football in our member associations,” said Fabimar Franchi, Head of Sustainability and Women’s Football Development at CONMEBOL. “Pooling our efforts to develop this program has brought clear benefits to all involved. The response from participants has been incredible and we look forward to implementing future editions.”
Assist also encourages all 55 UEFA member associations to unilaterally find ways of working with member associations from other confederations. For example, the Slovak Football Association supports player development in Botswana, while the Football Association of Ireland organizes coach education courses in Tanzania.
“Assist ensures that UEFA’s support for football extends far beyond Europe,” says Ms. Pasquier. “By sharing our expertise and experience and investing in development projects, we are giving back to the confederations and national associations that have done so much to enrich European football.”
A full version of this article can be read in the official Finalissima program, now available online.
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