UEFA tells Wales to keep their children off the pitch

Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates his team's win with his daughter Alba Violet after the UEFA Euro 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Paris, France Jul 06, 2016, 03.02 AM (IST)
The sight of Welsh players bringing kids on to the pitch after their quarter-final victory over Belgium at the European Championship last week may have warmed the hearts of millions around the world, but for the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) it appears to have been a step too far.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, tournament director Martin Kallen sought to bring a bit of harsh reality to the elite tournament. 

"This is not about pitch condition, the question is how far do you go with having other people on the pitch?", he said.

"We are not 100 per cent against it but we are cautious. It's nice pictures, it's always cute but a stadium is not the safest place for small kids."

The Welsh team, who play Portugal on Wednesday in Lyon for a place in the final, have been built on their own tournament motto "Together. Stronger" - playing like it on the pitch and enjoying themselves with their families off it at their Brittany training camp. 

The scenes of talisman Gareth Bale lifting his daughter Alba Violet at the Parc des Princes after the Northern Ireland match, or full back Neil Taylor grasping his children's soft toys following the 3-1 victory over Belgium in Lille, have brought a touch of humanity to the sometimes too serious world of soccer.

"UEFA's frowning on it unfortunately because it's encroachment on the pitch," David Griffiths, the president of the Welsh Football Association, was quoted as saying in British media. "But the team is run like a family and the boys have been together for so long."

Officially, only people with specific accreditation can join the players on the grass, but with a place in the final at stake there is no guarantee UEFA will be able to stop any of the winning teams' families from again breaking the taboo. 

"It is getting more and more a habit that entire family members would like to go on the pitch or into the technical area," Kallen told reporters.