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Kuala Lumpur: The lifeblood of the beautiful game – grassroots football – was placed under the spotlight today at the second Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Grassroots Panel Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The panel, which comprises grassroots specialists from across the continent, worked on the finer details of the AFC Grassroots Charter, which was introduced to Member Associations at the inaugural AFC Grassroots Conference in March this year.

The meeting led by AFC Technical Director Andy Roxburgh provided a good opportunity for the Members to further examine the criteria and grading system of the new Charter. “Grassroots football represents the foundation of football development and provides the basis for a lifelong passion for the game,” said Andy Roxburgh.

“With the AFC’s Vision and Mission outlining clear ambitions to ensure football remains the number-one sport in the continent. The investment in the grassroots movement will play a pivotal role in bringing to life the continent’s aspirations under the banner of One Asia, One Goal,” he added.

The charter, which recognises grassroots as non-professional and non-elite football, represents the benchmark for Member Associations to aspire towards and will play an invaluable role to raise the quality of grassroots programmes throughout the continent.

Anchored on the principles of continuity and excellence, 20 performance categories such as leadership, competitions, education and participation have been structured progressively in three grading levels to facilitate the evolution of the AFC’s grassroots endorsement programme.

At the entry level (bronze), the emphasis has been placed on building the foundations for participation, before being elevated to focus on development (silver). Moving on to the highest echelon (gold), Member Associations will need to satisfy a more robust set of criteria and commitment towards developing a vibrant ecosystem through wide-ranging programmes, lifelong pathways and retention of players.

Looking ahead, the panel were resolute on the significance and impact of the charter once fully implemented. Nakayama Masao, Assistant Director, and grassroots instructor from the Japan Football Association said: “Success on the world stage can only come through the grassroots. The new charter will ensure that we stimulate the environment for all our Member Associations to improve through a unified and dynamic system. As members of this panel, our aim now must be to bring all MAs on board this journey.

“Together, I am confident that we can raise the standards and foundations for football to thrive in our continent.”

Photo: AFC