Friday , June 2 2023

Tailored approaches key for Asia’s grassroots development!

When it comes to grassroots football development, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy.

That was the core message at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Grassroots Online Session 2023 on May 23, Tuesday afternoon, where participants gathered to glean insight on the best practices in Stimulating Grassroots Development – the theme for the day.

With the 108 attendees coming from a total of 39 different Member Associations (MAs), the importance of implementing unique strategies that fit each MA’s own needs was further underscored by UEFA Grassroots Mentor Les Howie, who was one of two guest speakers invited to share expert insights.

The Englishman, who has 40 years of experience in football development under his belt and was a prominent grassroots figure during his 23-year stint with the Football Association in England, noted that this was due to varying cultures, social and economic development stages, and other factors.

“Grassroots means different things in different countries and associations,” he said. “How they define it may be different and it is important that every association has clarity on what grassroots means to themselves.

“The challenge is in understanding that tomorrow starts today; we can all do something to make a difference and that is why having a tailormade approach for national associations is absolutely vital – one size will not fit all.”

Howie, who remains an active grassroots coach, gave an overview of the UEFA’s Grassroots Vision, Grassroots Framework and new Grassroots Charter, and also highlighted the approaches undertaken by seven different European National Associations and how each was suited to their own needs.

His presentation complemented that of Vito Di Gioia, the General Secretary of the Youth and Educational Department at the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC, or the Italian Football Federation), who showcased the value of football as an educational tool in Italian schools.

The Italian recalled how foundations were laid in the 1980s by the FIGC with the Ministry of Education to communicate the importance of the Beautiful Game, which promotes teamwork, resilience and other key personal skills. That meant the establishment of a dedicated department in the FIGC to work with the Ministry of Education as part of a joint committee in order to foster strong ties and collaboration between both parties.

Di Gioia, who is also a UEFA Grassroots Panel Expert, delved into the tertiary level-specific programmes – kindergarten, primary, secondary and high school – as well as the resources available to both educators and students at each level to facilitate both sporting and didactic outcomes.

AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh, who chaired the 90-minute session that saw robust engagement between the speakers and participants, praised the enlightening presentations.

“It is wonderful to see this combination of education and football, and that everyone benefits,” he said. “The whole personalised approach is vital in Asia, where there is so much variety – we have got vast places like China PR and India, and then smaller places like Guam and the Maldives.

“Identifying talent is a by-product of grassroots football; the main aim is to increase participation, and the spinoff of that is the retention. We want to increase the numbers and keep them playing.”

As part of the session, an update on the status of the AFC Grassroots Charter membership comprising 39 endorsed MAs – five Gold, 10 Silver and 24 Bronze – was provided, along with a recap of the 10th AFC Grassroots Football Day celebrations on May 15, 2023.

The MAs can next look forward to the return of the AFC Grassroots Football Conference, slated for November this year, which will allow for a physical gathering of grassroots specialists for the first time since 2018.

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