Monday 21 November 2022, 04:00

Breaking new ground for football in Wales

  • The foundations have been laid for the future success of women’s and men’s football in Wales

  • FIFA FORWARD has helped to expand the country’s national skills and development centres further

  • High-quality training facilities for talented young players

In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be... A goal for Switzerland in extra time of the play-off final shattered Wales’ dreams of qualifying for their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. Yet the legacy of this crucial qualification campaign is taking Welsh women’s football in a whole new direction. The Football Association of Wales’ (FAW) Football Centre of Excellence at the Vale Resort in Hensol and the National Football Development Centre at Colliers Park in Wrexham have a key role to play in taking the country to the next level, with grants from the FIFA FORWARD development programme enabling the FAW to expand these facilities further.

Both centres benefit Welsh football at both local and national level by providing accessible, high-quality training facilities for talented young players and footballers. These include world-class grass pitches, a FIFA-quality 3G playing surface and off-pitch facilities such as activation areas, learning suites and changing facilities. "The work here at Hensol has been incredible," said Matthew James, who coaches the Wales U-21 team. "The improvement that’s gradually happened over the years and the way it’s evolved has been fantastic for any member of staff and any player that comes to the site," he added.

 Matty Jones, U21 manager FAW watches training during the FIFA Forward Programme for FA Wales

"Having funding and having a brand like FIFA that supports us in the development of our young players and our senior teams is vital at the moment and there for everyone to see," James continued. "But let’s not forget we want to keep pushing and keep developing what we’re doing, because there have been vast improvements both on and off the pitch over the last ten years, and hopefully the fans are seeing the benefit of that now in terms of producing young talent, qualifying for tournaments and competing in tournaments." While the Welsh women’s national side have yet to qualify for a major tournament, the men’s team will be competing at their second FIFA World Cup in Qatar after Gareth Bale and his compatriots emerged from their decisive play-off match against Ukraine with a 1-0 win. While this triumph marks an important step for football in Wales, the construction of the Football Centre of Excellence and National Football Development Centre will hopefully pave the way for more success in the future.

"I think it’s evident quite quickly how much of an impact Colliers Park has had on football in North Wales, just with the usage that we’ve had both externally and internally," explained Fran Merola, Operational Supervisor at Colliers Park, on the impact these improvements are having on Welsh football. "We host and support various teams at various levels. "Since we opened in 2019, we’ve been able to support many of our national and regional camps, and that also includes holding tournaments that predominantly used to happen down south. For example, we had our [UEFA European] Under-19 [Championship] elite round qualifying tournament, where the teams trained both here and across the local area. That means we’re helping the wider community both financially and just by having an extra avenue for people to watch international football here in North Wales."

Fran Merola, Operational Supervisor at Colliers Park during the FIFA Forward Programme for FA Wales at Colliers Park