Yevgeniy Stolitenko, head of grassroots development at the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU), spoke to UEFA.com about his hopes for UEFA Grassroots Day 2011.
A celebration of grassroots football across Europe, UEFA Grassroots Day will provide the perfect precursor to this season's UEFA Champions League final at Wembley. It is not only in London, however, that activities are planned, with Ukraine among those setting the standard. Having attracted more than 1.3 million youngsters to events leading up to last year's big day – 19 May – Stolitenko has his fingers crossed for an equally positive impact this time around.
"UEFA Grassroots Day is a powerful tool for Ukrainian people to learn about the development of grassroots football in Ukraine and Europe," he told UEFA.com. "The FFU will be launching a special promotional campaign involving internet resources, TV, radio, and newspapers especially for UEFA Grassroots Day. From February all our grassroots events will be expressly focused on UEFA Grassroots Day and we expect that more and more people will join us as UEFA EURO 2012 approaches."
Although this year's UEFA Grassroots Day falls on 25 May, activities will take place in most of UEFA's 53 member association countries before and after this date. One of Ukraine's core initiatives is to hand more than 500 bags, full of every football essential a teacher could need, to schools across the country.
"PE teachers will be given a backpack, in which they will find a ball, an air pump, football kit, a tactics board with markers, and a book and CD on football coaching," explained Stolitenko.
Also on the agenda are tournaments aimed solely at girls, as well as a chance for disabled footballers to get involved. Another core component of Ukraine's grassroots approach are the Open Fun Football Schools (OFFS) which have proved so successful.
"In 2011, the FFU will implement an extensive Open Fun Football School grassroots project," said Stolitenko. "There will be 17 festivals in different regions of the country with 4,000 children taking part, including 1,000 girls. Before the festivals the teachers and coaches will attend international seminars. Afterwards, schools will continue their after-class work with the same philosophy and will invite children from surrounding areas."