The Lithuanian Football Federation (LFF) has proudly unveiled the country's very first football academy. Located in its second city, Kaunas, the project was financed by FIFA and UEFA, with around 4 million euros having already been invested.
The academy's official opening ceremony was attended by UEFA President Michel Platini and FIFA's European development manager Eva Pasquier, who were able to witness the locals' excitement at the new venture at first hand. "The academy is a new step forward for the whole of Lithuanian football, said the LFF's general director Julius Kvedaras. "Talented young kids from all corners of Lithuania will study there."
"Some parents didn't want their kids to go to an unknown city, but they completely changed their mind when they saw what conditions they have here," added the academy's director Raimondas Statkevicius.
Initially, two pools of 18 aspiring players were formed and one more group will begin training in Kaunas in autumn. A lack of facilities has been a long-standing problem in Lithuania, but the academy will provide youngsters with the opportunity to make use of a football hall, a fitness centre, two artificial pitches and one natural grass pitch. Moreover, expert coaches will offer modern training techniques, while new medical and testing apparatus will be available.
Youngsters at the academy will study at the same school in Kaunas, where their routine will include three lessons, followed by football training and then three more lessons. Teachers will also visit the academy, which is equipped with modern computers and other facilities, for certain lessons.
The LFF has ambitions plans to open up football academies all over the country. Before the start of the 2007 A Lyga, Lithuania's domestic championship, clubs had to pay 10,000 litas (about 3,000 euros) for every registered foreign player. This money will go to academies' needs.
"With help of FIFA and UEFA we plan to start building modern football centres in the suburbs of the capital city Vilnius. Academies are the best way to develop football for such a small country as Lithuania. Otherwise we would end up with no quality players to represent our national teams," Kvedaras concluded.