The FAI (Republic of Ireland Football Association), in conjunction with FIFA, is running one of FIFA’s campaigns to introduce more females to the game of football. ‘Live Your Goals’ was successfully launched and promoted in 2011 as part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany.
Speaking after the inaugural event was held in Letterkenny, Ger Dunne, national women’s coordinator and Irish senior women’s national team assistant coach said: “This is the first time we’ve run this programme in conjunction with FIFA.
“It has massive potential to leave a lasting legacy in Ireland. Many of the girls today had never played soccer before, but by the end of the afternoon, they were looking for information about their local clubs, which will only boost the numbers participating in clubs in the Donegal area.”
Among the Live Your Goals (LYG) campaign objectives are to spark, foster and establish excitement for women’s football, inspire young girls to play the game and provide a positive experience.
Further goals are to break down prejudice against women’s football, turn women’s football into a sport for the masses and, in the long-term, help grow the game at professional level.
The LYG campaign outlines clear messages, that women’s football is an authentic and attractive expression of a modern lifestyle. It shows optimism, fun, belonging and physical beauty. Women’s football is not just socially accepted but highly respected and has become an integral part of football development in the country.
A FIFA Live Your Goals event was conducted in Town Park, Letterkenny on Sunday 15 July. It was an afternoon of games and activities – testing players' skills, small-sided games and inflatable foosball. Most importantly young fans got to meet local female international players.
Internationals in attendance
Two Donegal natives in attendance to share their experiences were Ciara Grant and Niamh McLaughlin - both players were a part of Republic of Ireland's highly successful U-17 squad which reached the final of the European championships and qualified for the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Grant’s earliest memory of playing football was “playing every Monday and Wednesday at Anthony Gorman’s football club in the local pin tavern, which was conveniently located at the bottom of my estate.”
Speaking about her international debut, Grant admits it was a nervous experience. “My international debut was for the Irish U-15 schools team against Scotland over in Wales.
“I remember it well because prior to the match I had been training as a centre-back... the coach had put me there so I wasn't going to complain, I would have played in nets if he'd asked.
“But I remember the last training before the match he had come up to me and asked where I normally play and I told him centre midfield. Then when he named the team at the end of the session I was named in centre midfield.
“I remember this match so well because I was absolutely terrified as I’d been practicing playing centre-back for the previous three months! We won that match 1-0 and went on to win the Bob Doherty cup… two years in a row.”
McLaughlin, meanwhile, experienced success early on, winning the school cup and league with a boys’ team. McLaughlin also has fond memories of playing international football.
She said: “Every time I play for Ireland is memorable, but beating Germany and reaching the UEFA European U-17 final in 2010 was most memorable, as well as travelling to the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago later that year.”
Both girls admitted: “It’s great to be able to attend events like this and get to share our experiences, while having fun engaging with young players. It’s important for us players to get involved; these young girls are the future of our international teams”
Sue Ronan, senior women’s manager said: “The Live Your Goals Festival was a great occasion. We hope by having fun and enjoyment at the festival, that the young girls of Donegal will now develop an interest in the game and stay involved in the future.”