On the 30th and 31st of January, the ECA Youth Task Force visited the Puma Centro de Futebol, the Youth Academy of Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Inaugurated in June 2002, the Sporting Puma Youth Academy is the first of such size and quality to be built in Portugal recognised by the quality certification ISO9001. The Academy is considered the most modern and well equipped training facility in Portugal. Devoted to training and management, the complex is ready to prepare for any kind of football competition. It covers 250 thousand square metres, includes 6 full size pitches and offers top facilities for both youth and senior players. Mr. Diogo Matos, Head of the Youth Academy, and his team showed the task force the facilities where long-lasting tradition of nursing grassroots meets the highest modern facilities requirements. Several Portuguese Internationals, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Luis Figo, were trained by Sporting Clube de Portugal.
The information gathered during this visit will form part of the first ECA Youth Academy Benchmarking Guide, which is set to be published in Autumn 2012. The aim of this benchmarking guide is to provide advice and share experiences from youth development strategies in order to improve the functioning of club academies. It will also help improve ECA knowledge relating to youth academies and allow members to learn from each other by offering examples of best practice. The ECA Youth Task Force already visited the youth academies of FC Internazionale Milano, Arsenal FC, NK Dinamo Zagreb, R. Standard de Liège, FC Levadia Tallinn and FC Bayern München. The next field visit is set to take place at Ajax Amsterdam.