The construction of the first football training base in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which started in March 2010, has reached a new landmark with the laying of the foundation stone for the national association's new administrative centre.
With UEFA providing financial aid for the project, the House of Macedonian Football is scheduled to be completed in the next 18 months and will be situated adjacent to the national teams' training facility along the river Vardar in Skopje, the country’s capital city.
Prominent sporting personalities, including national team players led by coach John Toshack as well as representatives of the government, the state agency for youth and sport, and the City of Skopje, joined senior Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) officials for a ceremony to mark the beginning of the building work.
The two four-level buildings, connected by passages, will be spread across 4,000 square metres, with reception areas, fully equipped meeting rooms and other facilities that will give FFM staff improved working conditions. The national training centre comprises three grass pitches and one mini–stadium.
Addressing the ceremony, FFM president Haralampie Hadji-Risteski said: "Macedonia have plenty of talented young players but we lack the football infrastructure and grass pitches where they can learn the game in depth and further their development. We are glad that in our efforts to develop a much-needed infrastructure, the FFM has always had a faithful ally in UEFA and [world governing body] FIFA.”
UEFA has supported the construction of the training base and administrative building with funds from its HatTrick assistance programme, which benefits the European body’s 53 member national associations. The Macedonian government provided a location for the project.
Mr Hadji-Risteski stressed that the first step towards building the new premises was made with a visit by UEFA President Michel Platini in March 2009, honouring 100 years of football in FYROM. "We decided then to direct the funds that UEFA granted us for projects into this one, while the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the government gave their word to Mr Platini that they would contribute to this very important scheme. By providing the free location on which the training ground and the House of Football are being built, they kept the promise made to the UEFA President for the benefit and progress of Macedonian football."
The three grass pitches, one with artificial turf, are nearing completion and will soon be at the disposal of the country's national sides of all ages, along with the 3,000-seat stadium, where the national women's team and all youth sides will play their international matches.
Mr Hadji-Risteski expressed the hope that the training centre would encourage the construction of other training facilities across FYROM, which could later develop into football academies and help raise the standard of domestic soccer to the desired level.