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Football brings nations together: anybody in any doubt about this need only look to the recent qualifying round for the European U-19 Championship for proof. The tournament, which was held in Armenia, pitted the Armenian and Turkish sides against each other – an event of obvious significance given the state of relations between the two countries. Not only was the match played in the spirit of fair play, but the two sides and their officials posed together for a commemorative photo. Turkey won the match 2-1, but Spain won the tournament, thus qualifying for the final tournament in the Czech Republic. This U-19 tournament prepared the ground for the international “A” qualifying matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
The Austrian football federation (OFB) is taking innovative steps to improve training for talented youngsters. It has signed a cooperation agreement with the Austrian gymnastics federation, whose coaches will offer training to the young footballers three times a week in the OFB’s regional training centres. The aim of this initiative is to develop the young players’ basic motor skills in order not only to improve their performances, but also to help prevent injuries.
Efforts are also under way to improve the quality of young players in Norway, but using different methods. The Norwegian federation has noticed that not all of the volunteers who are involved in basic football coaching for children have attended its courses for coaches. It has therefore decided to post a series of articles on its website to provide coaches who have not completed a course with simple guidelines on how to organise their training sessions. These guidelines include letting the children play in small teams on smaller-scale pitches, so that they have more contact with the ball, improve more quickly and, most importantly, have fun playing.