The tireless efforts of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Member Associations (MAs) in developing grassroots football were recognised on Tuesday night at the AFC Annual Awards Doha 2022, presented by the AFC’s Global Partner NEOM.
Held at the Al Mayassa Theatre of the Qatar National Convention Centre, the showpiece celebration lauded the crucial work of MAs in nurturing grassroots football and fostering the growth of talented players, which in turn ensures a promising future for Asian football where stars can shine on the Continent and beyond.
Three MAs were presented with the AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football across three categories, which were revamped to better highlight their achievements – Gold went to Football Australia, Silver to the Guam Football Association and Bronze to the All India Football Federation.
AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football – Gold
Six years after picking up this award in 2016 (with no categorisation then), Football Australia has emerged as winners again.
Football Australia CEO and General Secretary James Johnson said: “We are obviously really pleased to have received this award. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand in 2023 was a gamechanger for the game in Australia.
“Our legacy from Australia 2023 is to see just as many girls playing football as the boys by 2027 and I am confident, particularly with what we have just witnessed in recent months, we are well on course of achieving our target.”
The association has demonstrated a healthy traction for growth, with an overall increase of eight per cent, and 20 per cent specifically with regard to female participation rates compared to before the pandemic.
Significant – and fairly allocated – investment has been ploughed into grassroots programmes, with a strong emphasis on work with schools. As such, content for such programmes have been refreshed and schools are displaying improved results.
AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football – Silver
Guam Football Association
The Guam Football Association (GFA) collected their second award of the night, with this being their first ever for grassroots football after also receiving the AFC Member Association of the Year award in the Ruby category.
GFA President Valentino San Gil said: “This award just goes to show that while we may be a smaller Member Association, we have great determination to grow the game. This grassroots award certainly motivates us to achieve more in the future. Looking ahead, we are working towards strengthening our programme for coaches and we are confident this will further elevate the game in Guam.”
This grassroots recognition comes in the wake of sustained growth in participation numbers for the GFA’s grassroots activities, including the Youth League, Futsal League and Soccer Moms League.
There has also been a 100 per cent increase in overall sponsorship for their grassroots programmes from various sources, while a multitude of partnerships with federal authorities for both grassroots football and social development programmes have been launched successfully.
AFC President’s Recognition Award for Grassroots Football – Bronze
All India Football Federation
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has won their second Grassroots Football award – their previous one came in 2014 – after putting in place a slew of new initiatives.
AIFF President Kaylan Chaubey said: “India is home to the largest population, we are also the fifth largest economy, and I believe the new AIFF has made incredible strides in growing the passion for the game in the country.
“Our grassroots programme has reached 26.1 million children. It is just a sign of more things to come of course as we invest more in grassroots football, which will eventually improve the standards of our youth and senior teams.”
Special projects that have been kickstarted include the AIFF Blue Cubs, Blue Cubs Coaching Courses, Blue Cubs Leagues, Blue Cubs Football Schools, AIFF Grassroots Awards, AIFF Institutional League for Non- Professional Entities and AIFF Project Diamond, while fresh partnerships have been forged with the likes of the Ministry of Education, Institute of Management, Institute of Physical Education and Germany’s KICK ID.
Furthermore, overall participation in activities has been witnessed through events such as the AFC Grassroots Day 2023, AIFF Academy Accreditation, AIFF Golden Baby League, Grassroots Coach Development Courses, Blue Cubs Leader Courses and Grassroots Coach Educators Courses.