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UEFA’s vision for women’s game shared by IFA: UEFA WFDP ambassador Steffi Jones was present at a conference in Northern Ireland centred on women’s football and its impressive development in that country and beyond. UEFA women’s football development programme (WFDP) ambassador Steffi Jones was a high-profile guest at a keynote conference on the women’s game in Northern Ireland (UEFA News Box).

The much-titled former German international, who took on her UEFA duties last month, attended a seminar organised by the Northern Ireland Community Relations Department in conjunction with the women’s football unit at the Irish Football Association (IFA) and the Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association (NIWFA).

A day of motivation, inspiration and information centred on women’s football, its impressive development in recent years and Northern Ireland’s own unstinting efforts to bolster its activities in this area. UEFA has approved the IFA’s own WFDP project – SCORE Pilot Project: Supporting Women and Girls Football – set up within a pan-European drive in which national associations are being helped by UEFA to realise their ambitions in the women’s football sector.

Northern Ireland is seen as having encouraging potential: the IFA is currently drawing up a long-term strategy comprising, among other things, recruitment of players, referees, officials and coaches, raising club standards, educating coaches and improving national-team performances at youth and senior level.

The multifaceted SCORE project aims in particular to increase the capacity of women’s football clubs. Fifty club volunteers will undertake coach education commensurate with their experience, and educational workshops will focus on matters such as nutrition for grassroots players.

Fifty clubs will also participate in a club development programme incorporating child protection, club administration and first aid, with each club given funds to hold coaching sessions in schools and community groups. The 50 clubs will also deliver two holiday camps a year and will endeavour to enter at least one girls’ team in IFA small-sided leagues from March to June next year.

UEFA is giving fresh impetus to the evolution of women’s football across Europe, having formulated a wide-ranging strategy for the female game. One of the key visions is that: “Opportunities should be provided to all girls who want to play football within their neighbourhood or village, regardless of skill or talent, offering them a safe environment in which to play to their own aspirations.” Northern Ireland is one of many FAs that are working hard at the grassroots, with UEFA’s help, to give girls the chance to play.

Northern Irish international Danielle McDowell is one such footballer who seized her opportunity. She told the seminar that as soon as she could walk, she wanted to play football and would carry a ball around with her in a plastic bag wherever she went. For her, there was no religious divide – she just wanted to play and share the game she loved.

Delegates also attended a variety of interactive informative workshops on the topics of women in leadership, barriers to participation/routes to inclusion, and PR marketing and media within women’s football. The workshops were facilitated by the United States consul general to Belfast, Kamala Lakhdhir, the English Football Association’s head of national game, Kelly Simmons, IFA women’s domestic football manager, Sara Booth, and Rhoda Cassidy from Women’s World United.

“The interactive nature of the workshops allowed not only for effective discussion and information distribution, but also for attendees to interact on a personal basis, creating new connections and links to support future ideas. There was a really positive atmosphere and determination throughout the day,” said Lisa Rickett, IFA community relations officer.

Steffi Jones and NIWFA chairwoman Elaine Junk spoke passionately and realistically about the state of women’s football and noted the low levels of females in strategic positions within the higher echelons of sport. Jones – now a tireless women’s football ambassador after a brilliant playing career – emphasised the importance of continuing your involvement in sport beyond just playing, so that your vital knowledge isn’t lost to those who follow.

UEFA President attends Swedish awards:

UEFA President Michel Platini attended the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) awards on Monday as a specially invited guest. Mr Platini had the honour of presenting the great Kurt Hamrin with Swedish football’s lifetime achievement award.

Stockholm’s Globe Arena was packed for the annual football gala, which was broadcast live on Swedish television. When Michel Platini came on stage, he took the opportunity to congratulate his host nation for a successful year, during which the women’s national team reached third place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany and the men’s team qualified for the UEFA EURO 2012 final round next summer.

Mr Platini went on to speak of Sweden’s strong footballing traditions. “I was born in the 1950s and grew up [in France] watching Kopa and Fontaine, but you had Gre-No-Li,” said the UEFA President, referring to the renowned trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm – the formidable triumvirate of Swedish forwards who made their mark domestically and in the international game.

Moments later, Mr Platini welcomed a former Sweden team-mate of the famous three on to the platform at the Globe Arena. One-time winger Kurt Hamrin – a winner of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup with AC Milan and the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Milan and ACF Fiorentina, and a FIFA World Cup finalist with Sweden in 1958 – received the Swedish game’s lifetime achievement award from the UEFA President.

At the weekend, Mr Platini visited Norway, where he attended the men’s and women’s domestic cup finals and met senior officials of the Football Association of Norway (NFF).

UEFA Euro 2012 under the banner of Respect:

At UEFA EURO 2012, away from the action on the field, where the stars and teams make the headlines, UEFA’s RESPECT campaign will be tackling some of Europe’s key social issues aiming to raise awareness and positively affect the lives of people in Poland and Ukraine. The RESPECT campaign, UEFA’s social responsibility initiative, was launched by the UEFA president at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

Speaking about the importance of the RESPECT campaign, Michel Platini said: “As the governing body of European football, UEFA has the responsibility to protect the game and its supporters. RESPECT at EURO highlights UEFA’s continuous commitment to combat any form of discrimination, increase access for fans with disabilities, promote health through physical activity and encourage intercultural dialogue between fans and the host cities”.

In the build-up to UEFA EURO 2012 and during the final tournament, UEFA is supporting four social projects with a financial contribution totalling up to EUR 3,000,000. The RESPECT campaign will be making its impact in Poland and Ukraine and beyond the host countries through various initiatives grouped under the four headings of RESPECT Diversity, RESPECT Fan Culture, RESPECT Inclusion and RESPECT your Health.

The RESPECT Diversity project will be implemented together with UEFA’s long-time partner the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) and its network association Never Again. It will promote the positive message of diversity through various activities before and during the tournament, peaking at the semi-finals. Hundreds of inclusivity zones will be created at the tournament.

These are public buildings and spaces that are designated as being open and accessible to all, regardless of ethnic or national background, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Also, to date, over 80,000 police officers and stewards in Poland and Ukraine have received anti-discrimination training to help them identify discriminatory chants, symbols and behaviour.

Meanwhile, the RESPECT Fan Culture project will support football fans during the final tournament of the UEFA European Football Championship. Together with Football Supporters Europe (FSE), fan embassies will be set up in the eight host cities to serve as places where fans can seek assistance with last-minute travel and accommodation arrangements as well as facilitation in unforeseen circumstances. Supporters of participating countries will also have their own mobile fan embassies that will move from stadium to stadium.

In addition, UEFA is working with CAFE (Centre for Access to Football in Europe) to manage three separate RESPECT Inclusion initiatives. Under the “Football with No Limits” initiative, access information will be provided to disabled fans and visitors by the means of a tailor-made guide. Through the “Showcase games” project run by Special Olympics in Poland and the National Sports Committee for Disabled People in Ukraine, disabled people will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their sports skills by competing in football matches before each quarter-final game. Funds for future inclusion initiatives will be raised through the UEFA EURO 2012 Tournament charity project, encouraging football supporters and other benefactors to donate money for upcoming projects, with UEFA paving the way by committing to donate €3,000 for each goal scored during the tournament.

Finally, the RESPECT your Health – Euroschools 2012 project promotes healthy lifestyles among children and their families, with a focus on smoking prevention, healthy diet, moderation in alcohol consumption, and encouraging physical activity. Coordinated by UEFA partner streetfootballworld, the programme trains schools, NGOs and local coaches to combine sport sessions with health education activities. As part of the Respect your Health project, UEFA EURO 2012 has also been declared a tobacco-free event.

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