The Irish Football Association are celebrating after receiving funding through Erasmus+, a major European programme with aim of widening participation.
Managed in the UK by the British Council and Ecorys UK, Erasmus+ is the European Union’s (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport, with the EU committing £12 billion to the programme between 2014 and 2020.
Having received funding through Erasmus+ they have been improving coach education at all levels – from grassroots to professional As part of an innovative project, IFA coaches job shadowed at sporting centres of excellence such as the Olivanova Football Training Complex in Spain, which works with players from clubs including Valencia and Villarreal FC.
Nigel Best, Coach Education Manager at the Irish FA, explained how this benefits the future of Northern Ireland community football. He said: “The programme has given local coaches the opportunity to visit other European countries to develop their knowledge of club organisation and see how young talented players are brought up through the ranks. Spain and Portugal have fostered some of the world’s top players and there are many things that we can hopefully learn from them.
“Programmes like this are fundamental for Northern Irish football. We’re a very small community and there aren’t as many opportunities here to observe professional coaches and it’s expensive and hard to access. Through this programme however, we’ve been able to identify coaches from across Northern Ireland and develop and enhance the local game throughout the six counties.”
The funding also enabled Northern Ireland’s Cerebral Palsy squad to compete in the European Championships, where they defeated Germany and secured a place in the World Cup in 2015
Nigel said: “Opportunities like this are fantastic and have seen the team come on in leaps and bounds, both on a professional and personal level. They are now 13 in the current world rankings and to qualify for last year’s World Cup is a major accomplishment.
“They’ve come home with more confidence and you can see they have developed a sense of achievement and enhanced their interactive skills. For them, Portugal is a completely different world and it’s been a life-changing experience.”
Erasmus+ aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of Lifelong Learning, including schools education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector. Erasmus+ provides funding for organisations to offer opportunities to students, teachers, apprentices, volunteers, youth leaders and people working in grassroots’ sport.
It will also provide funding for partnerships between organisations such as educational institutions, youth organisations, enterprises, local and regional authorities and NGOs.