UEFA and Disney launch initiative to help more girls in Romania play football

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UEFA and Disney have teamed-up to develop a ground-breaking football programme that uses Disney’s world-renowned storytelling to encourage more young girls to exercise regularly and kickstart a lifelong love of football.

Inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport, Playmakers also aims to increase the proportion of girls meeting the World Health Organization’s minimum standards for physical activity – currently, just 16%.

Targeting 5-8 year-old girls not currently playing football, seven UEFA national associations including Romania will be first to roll out “Playmakers” through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme later in the year.

Movement, teamwork, imagination

Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmaker’s ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of Disney and Pixar’s billion dollar global box office smash hit, Incredibles 2. Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl, Violet, Mr Incredible and Dash, bringing the film’s action scenes to life through movement, teamwork and their imagination.

As Playmakers rolls out across Europe, new Disney storytelling will be added to the programme.

In its early sessions, Playmakers focuses on building girls’ confidence in their movement, encouraging creative thinking and communicating easily with their friends. Later sessions introduce girls to basic football skills, but the programme continues to put the emphasis on making sport fun.

Răzvan Burleanu, President of Romania FA, said: “Being one of the first countries to take part in this pan-European programme is a statement for football in Romania. If we are truly commited to bringing more girls into the sport, we need to be aware of the circumstances and the environment that will make that possible. To increase participation, we must start from the youngest, which is why I am convinced that the Playmakers project will be a real success in Romania. Our coaches are committed to embracing the programme and we look forward to rolling out sessions across the country in early 2020.”

Florentina Olaru, captain of Romania Women’s National Team, added: ”When I started football 20 years ago, there weren’t such beautiful projects dedicated to girls, which shows that the interest in women’s football has increased considerably in the last years. I think this project is a very important one for the girls because it offers an opportunity to get acquainted with the sport in a safe and pleasant environment for them. I can’t wait to see the implementation of this project and I am convinced that it will help develop women’s football in Romania”.

Teodora Meluta, Romania Women’s National Team player, commented: “I grew up with Disney stories and I can only enjoy their involvement in women’s football development. It is an honour for me to be the ambassador of this project and I wish this pilot project to be just the beginning. Our girls need a safe and familiar environment for them to get introduced to this beautiful sport. They can do that through this exciting new project”.

UEFA-funded research into play-based learning

The play-based learning at the heart of Playmakers’ unique approach follows a literary review by Leeds’ Beckett University in England, which was commissioned by UEFA. The review assessed academic research into what motivates young girls to participate in sports, identifying best practice coaching methods to create a safe learning environment. Its findings put particular emphasis on the benefits of play-based education.

The programme is also the result of a knowledge-transfer partnership with the English Football Association (FA), who are currently running the “Shooting Stars” programme in partnership with Disney.

Along with Romania, Playmakers will launch in Austria, Belgium, Norway, Poland, Scotland, and Serbia this spring, before a full pan-European roll-out

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