By any measure, 2013 has been an incredible year for the UK Minifootball Association (UKMA).
The year began with the announcement of the first ever friendly match played by the England team on home soil. The match was played on February 5th in Wembley and a new look England side ran out 6-1 winners as the build-up began for miniEURO.
Also in February, the UKMA also announced the purchase of brand new offices in the Midlands, putting us right at the heart of both the country and minifootball.
In March we were very excited that those new offices had been chosen as the venue for two extremely important meetings in April. One of these was to see the formation of the World Minifootball Federation with guests coming from across Asia, and North and South America to discuss greater and closer collaboration, while the other saw the Executive of the European Minifootball Federation meet to finalise plans for the miniEURO – which was to be held in Crete in the autumn.
Elsewhere in April, the big news saw the first ever National Trials Day. Held in a windy Walsall, 45 of the best minifootballers in the UK came as the selection process began for the squads for Greece. For the first time, the UKMA was taking three teams to play in the games, so footballers from Scotland and Wales mixed with their English counterparts in a series of specially arranged matches.
Also in an exceptionally busy April, thoughts turned to the National 6 a side Championships, with Freebets continuing their sponsorship of the event, while in May the planning began in earnest for the big day.
On June 8th 2014 263 teams descended on Birmingham with the hope of becoming UK 6 a side champions. There was to be major drama in the final – as the match between Uxbridge and Oxford ending goalless, it came down to a penalty shoot-out. England skipper Craig Carby missed his vital spot kick in the final (pictured), meaning a new name on the cup.
Right at the end of the month, the next national trials took place, this time in Sutton Coldfield, where players were further put through their paces with a view to making the plane to Crete.
July saw the draw for the miniEURO event, held at a lavish ceremony in Crete, England and Wales were paired together along with Spain and Bulgaria, while Scotland faced a tough group that included a tough Kazakhstan team as well as Slovakia and Austria.
August and September were the months where the talking about miniEURO stopped and the action began, after a final trials day saw the selection of all three squads, final preparations were complete for the big event which began on October 11th.
The three teams performed admirably in miniEURO, England reaching the Quarter finals, before being beaten by eventual winners and reigning champions, Romania, in controversial circumstances including a late schedule change, while Scotland performed brilliantly and with great heart in their three games and Wales gave their all. The tournament itself was a huge success, with the people of Rethmyno really getting behind the event – a crowd of well over 3000 witnessed the spectacular final.
As things returned to normal after miniiEURO, the UKMA board announced a restructure of the coaching sides of all three national teams in November – England, Scotland and Wales will all be under new management next year. When the teams do play, they will again look the part, as when December rolled around, the UKMA was proud to announce a continuation of our partnership with Umbro.
While all these major international developments have taken place, the UKMA has been doing tremendous work at grass roots level in the UK. Over 60,000 players have been recruited at a time when the FA faces a funding cut after losing 100,000 players from its competitions.
We have added dozens of new providers, making us one of the fastest growing sporting bodies in the UK and new accredited centres all across the country.
The UKMA have had a fantastic year in 2013, and 2014 promises to be even bigger.