European success is a huge part of Aberdeen Football Club’s heritage.
Two stars adorn the club’s badge, recognition of the team’s achievements on the park against the continent’s best.
The AFC Community Trust was not to be outdone. It scooped its second European award last week, winning at the Uefa Grassroots Awards to add to the recognition they received from the European Clubs Assocation for their Dementia Friendly programme.
All this was achieved without a hub to work from. But that is about to change, with the new training campus at Cormack Park due to open at the end of the month. Its benefits will not be felt just by the Aberdeen first team, its successful women’s side or the youth academy. The trust will use Kingsford as a platform to enhance its already burgeoning reputation.
Steven Sweeney, the trust’s community operations manager, is relishing the opportunity to move into their home on October 31.
Sweeney said: “Kingsford will benefit us significantly. On the pitch Aberdeen have achieved everything we have over the last number of years with no facilities. The first team have those challenges and the youth academy have those challenges.
“AFC Women are close to winning the league again with no facilities. For the community trust we’ve relied on partners to provide facilities because we’ve had no facilities.
“This will give us an excellent opportunity to build community capacity and work even closer with grassroots clubs that we’ve worked hand in hand with to gain this recognition.
“We can use it as a community club to improve public health and engage with some of those hard to reach, or as we prefer to call them, easy to ignore groups. We can push forward Aberdeen FC being in the community and here for the city and region.”
Amid competition from the 54 other member nations, who had selected the best club nomination from their own countries, the Dons were named the best professional football club at the Uefa Grassroots Awards.
The award recognises outstanding grassroots work and delivering programmes for a wide range of participants. The trust’s collaborative work with the Scottish FA was cited as an example of best practice with a total of 20,402 participants taking advantage of their programmes in 2018-19.
Sweeney added: “It’s great the north-east of Scotland is getting recognition because there are lots of clubs out there with more resources than us. But the key message is that it’s all about people and working together. There’s a great sense of community spirit in the north-east and that’s contributed to us receiving this recognition.
“There’s plenty of clubs right across Europe doing fantastic work, but UEFA have recognised us and we’re happy to receive that pat on the back. But we also recognise that resets the bar and we want to go on and do more over the next five years as well.”
Sweeney joined Aberdeen six-and-a-half years ago, seizing the chance to step up from his role with St Mirren where he worked with their community department and set up their in-house charity. Prior to that he was a PE teacher but wanted to expand his opportunities to impact young people’s lives.
He added: “It was only our fifth birthday on July 1 so we’re very young – if we were a child we’re just going into Primary One – so I look forward to seeing where we are when we get to secondary school.”