Winners from Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Italy and Poland have been honoured in the 2020 UEFA Grassroots Awards.
The awards recognise leaders, clubs and projects throughout Europe for their outstanding commitment and contribution to grassroots football, celebrating some unsung heroes at the bedrock of the game.
“Grassroots football is crucial to the well-being of the game and society across Europe,” said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, during a special videoconference with the gold award winners. “As the achievements of the winners demonstrate, it shows how football’s universal popularity can help break stereotypes and connect communities.
“We only reached our final choices after lots of discussion and deliberation. The strength in depth of the candidates gets stronger every year, making the winners’ achievements even more outstanding.”
UEFA has highlighted grassroots heroes of Europe’s most popular sport every year since 2010, showcasing the people, projects and places that ensure everyone, regardless of their age, ability, gender or background, can play football in a safe environment – the key objective of UEFA’s grassroots programme.
Despite the challenges of a unique year in 2020, the standards were once again incredibly high among the 129 nominations from across 36 nations. Below, we profile the gold, silver and bronze award winners in each of the five categories.
The 2020 UEFA Grassroots Awards winners
Best Grassroots Leader
Gold: Jessy Surmava (Georgia)
Jessy Surmava began planning his town’s first-ever football school in 2011 with the goal of increasing children’s participation in football. After obtaining government grants and local support, he opened a venue in 2018, which now runs 12 teams and caters for up to 300 children. His academy has since signed a memorandum of co-operation with reigning national champions, Dinamo Tbilisi, located 300km away.
Silver winner, Northern Irishman Brian Sloan, who is now in his 70s, has committed his life to local club Brookvale FC, fulfilling the roles of chairman, coach, manager, grass cutter, money collector, bus driver and many more down the years. Klyuev Pavel Aleksandrovich, from Russia, has organised street football and futsal leagues all over Buyatia, in eastern Siberia, earning him the bronze award.
Best Grassroots Project
Gold: Etnoliga (Poland)
Etnoliga is a social programme in the Polish capital, Warsaw, which promotes diversity through its annual football league for immigrant communities and looks to support refugees as well as empowering women, LGBT+ and other underprivileged groups.
The silver award goes to Rinus, the Netherlands’ coaching app accessed by 25,000 grassroots coaches per month, with over 80,000 users during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain’s Football in Prison initiative, offering equipment to institutions and integration for inmates, takes the bronze award.
Best Grassroots Club
Gold: Frederiksberg Boldklub (Denmark)
Frederiksberg Boldklub is a Copenhagen community club whose commitment to social responsibility has seen them provide playing opportunities for thousands of children, including refugees and those from marginalised backgrounds, as well as running training programmes for elderly men and women fighting heart disease and diabetes.
Silver winner Chadderton Park Sports Club, in England, runs over 90 teams in total with inclusivity at its heart, while bronze winner Greenisland FC of Northern Ireland has helped its local area by delivering food packages and medication during the COVID-19 pandemic, with online competitions to keep junior members entertained and engaged.
Best Disability Initiative
Gold: 4th Category (Italy)
4th Category is responsible for arranging Italy’s first major football tournament for players with a cognitive impairment, intellectual disability or other mental health issues. Founded in 2016, it now provides opportunities for over 3,000 players and is supported by 80 professional clubs.
Croatia’s Special Power League is the silver winner, working to arrange four tournaments each year, providing more than 200 disabled children with top-flight clubs joining the programme to promote social inclusion. Bronze medallist ‘Special activities for special kids’ is a Lithuanian grassroots football initiative for kindergartens aimed at children with physical and mental disabilities, supported by several professional clubs.
Best Professional Football Club
Gold: SV Werder Bremen (Germany)
Werder’s recognition follows the success of its BallSchule scheme, providing PE lessons at nursery and primary schools throughout the city for children to enjoy sports where there is otherwise no provision to do so. Their other social engagement work includes projects for people with disabilities and refugees, as well as walking football for the over-60s. In total, it operates 22 grassroots teams.
Silver winner Shakhtar Social offers free football for children of all abilities in six Ukrainian cities, with dedicated sessions for youngsters with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and hearing impairments, while in Scotland, bronze winner Dundee United Community Trust runs education programmes benefiting 300 children, a mental health football team and set up the club’s women’s team, which has already climbed to the second tier of the Scottish Women’s Premier League.
How are UEFA Grassroots Award winners selected?
Each of European football’s 55 national associations are invited to nominate candidates, with award winners then selected by UEFA’s Executive Committee, following recommendations made by the organisation’s Grassroots Panel bureau and Development and Technical Assistance Committee.