UEFA’s educational programme aims to look after tomorrow’s stars

Players from the youth teams of FC Barcelona, SL Benfica, Red Bull Salzburg and Real Madrid CF have been involved in perhaps the most important experience of their young careers as they are all aimed to win the Lennart Johansson trophy.

While participating in the Final Four of the UEFA Youth League in Nyon, the players have also been offered the opportunity to get some prized insight on the world of football from some of UEFA’s top personnel. The UEFA Educational programme on Saturday taught members of the four teams valuable lessons regarding how to conduct themselves on and off the pitch.

Pierluigi Collina, one of football’s most respected figures and UEFA’s Chief Refereeing Officer, passed on his knowledge to the youngsters. His principle task was to explain the laws of the game and how they are interpreted by match officials. However, he also gave the youth team players advice on how to conduct themselves on the pitch.

While players may prefer to let their feet do the talking, interaction with the media is becoming an absolute necessity for the modern footballer. One simple slip of the tongue or a Tweet that is misinterpreted can land a player in hot water with their club, national team or commercial partners. Pedro Pinto, who is the managing director of UEFA’s Communications department, offered his guidance to the young players on what to do when facing journalists eager for a story and how to manage their social media channels.

“In today’s world, practically every movement that sports athletes make is scrutinised and discussed around the world,” said Pinto. “It is imperative that young players learn how to deal with the media at a young age as positive communication can be greatly beneficial, but negative publicity could come back to haunt them later on in their careers.”

When people think of UEFA, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA EURO are two of the first things that come to mind. However, European football’s governing body does so much more than organising football matches.

Stéphane Anselmo, a senior Club Competitions manager, spoke about how UEFA invests over 80 percent of the money it earns back into football, as well as promoting the organisation’s key values, such as gender equality and inclusion, while reiterating that everyone has the right to be a part of football, irrespective of gender, creed, colour, ability or sexual orientation.

Rounding off the programme, a video was shown to educate players about UEFA’s stringent anti-doping rules. Players were reminded that if they were to give a positive drugs test, the chances are this would ruin their fledgling careers even before they could reach their full potential.

Only one club will be returning home with the Lennart Johansson trophy. However, all the players will have the chance to take back with them some valuable lessons both on and off the field of play, which will hopefully stand them in good stead for the rest of their careers.