About 80 pupils from primary schools in Limassol had the opportunity today to participate in a football match with football legends Luis Figo, Aljosa Asanovic, Zvonimir Boban, Nadine Kessler and UEFA President Alexander Čeferin.
The UEFA Grassroots 2023 match was held at the Alphamega Stadium, as part of the “Football in Schools” programme and on the occasion of UEFA Executive Committee meeting in Limassol today, and was organised in cooperation between UEFA, the Cyprus Football Association and the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth.
Regarding the UEFA Executive Committee meeting, Alexander Čeferin said that every September a Mediterranean climate country is chosen “and of course Federations that are very close to us” and responded positively to whether some important decisions will be taken today, as the Executive Committee only meets four times a year, he said, without giving further details.
He did not rule out UEFA organising more events in Cyprus and already, he was informed, a workshop is being planned on the island next week.
For his part, CFA President George Koumas said that today’s event is important for the Association, not so much because of the presence of the UEFA leadership and football legends, but because “through the cooperation protocol (Football in schools) with the Ministry of Education, we put football in all primary schools and 60,000 pupils have the opportunity to engage with the sport.”
He added that CFA has donated thousands of footballs to all primary schools and has also opened access to the technical department so that any teacher who wants to attend a coaching seminar, at the lowest level of course, can get a diploma without any charge.
At the same time, he noted that “we have to start from the younger age groups so that we can go higher and some of them will be our young footballers tomorrow, others will be our new young fans”.
Responding to a question, Koumas said that the Alphamega stadium has left an excellent impression on UEFA’s people and recalled that the new Limassol stadium will host the Cyprus vs Spain match, as well as the final of the European Under-17 Championship in 2024.
In response to whether any other event is planned with UEFA, CFA President replied that “we might have a final at AlphaMega, but of what age group I don’t know and I can’t announce it before we discuss it with UEFA”.
In his statements, Portuguese football legend Luis Figo also expressed his pleasure to be back in Cyprus, explaining that he had visited the country many years ago on holidays.
“The President of the Federation is a very good friend and to see the facilities, to be with the Grassroots programme here, with the kids, it is fantastic. The stadium is also fantastic, I think it’s the perfect stadium for a chance to have good games here in good conditions and that’s one of the important things in football,” he said.
The kids, he continued, were very enthusiastic and the important thing is the promotion of football, whether through public or private initiatives, “which is good for the clubs and for the national teams.”
He also said that through his work with UEFA, he is doing something he loves and expressed his excitement for what the future will bring.
Schools have an important role to play in preventing violence and delinquency and the Ministry of Education aims to preserve the principles and values of sport in our education system, said Education Minister Athena Michaelidou, who attended the football match of Limassol primary school pupils on Tuesday morning.
“It is a celebration for us at the Ministry of Education, because primary school children are participating in it, an event organised as part of the football festival, by UEFA, the CFA and the Ministry of Education,” Michailidou said.
In addition, she noted that “sport is important to us, values, life attitudes and life skills promoted through sport are one of our main priorities, that’s why you see young primary school children involved in these kinds of activities.”
The children, she continued, are also excited about being here, but more importantly, they are excited about meeting athletes, footballers and federations, so they also know how the mechanism works.
“Apart from that, it is a goal of ours to keep the principles and values of sport in our educational system from very early on,” Michaelidou added, indicating that the Ministry of Education is working at the level of prevention, from very early on, to address phenomena of violence and delinquency.
As she explained, “we believe that all these phenomena that we see even in schools, but especially in the stadiums in general, start from the family, but the school has an important role to play. So we start very early, as you can see, to pass these principles and values into our system”.
Asked if she was optimistic about the outcome, she said “it takes perseverance and patience.” From this year, she concluded in her statement, “we have announced programmes in kindergartens and I believe that these children, among whom these principles and values are cultivated from a very early age, will be much better citizens in the future and will respect both the playing fields and the school grounds.”