Across the globe there are currently around 29 million women and girls who play football. For some, the dream of following in the footsteps of the game's greats will become a reality. After all, stars such as Marta, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan started out young and are now among the best in the business.
FIFA's Live Your Goals campaign aims to encourage girls and young women to play football and to inspire, nurture and consolidate an enthusiasm for the women's game. FIFA.com spoke with the aforementioned trio about the importance of the programme.
"The Live Your Goals campaign is definitely huge, especially for female athletes," USA international Alex Morgan told FIFA.com. "There are fewer opportunities compared to the men’s game. We have a responsibility as female professional athletes to create that passion in those little girls and to show them that those dreams can come true. I was that little girl once and I looked up to Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly and I dreamed of playing on the team they played on one day. And here I am.”
Since making her senior debut for USA against Mexico on 31 March 2010, Morgan has become a mainstay in the Stars and Stripes’ side. Having shone as a substitute at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, the forward was a starter at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament a year later. Her performances there were rewarded with a nomination for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2012 award. Morgan’s dedication to achieving her aims is a perfect example that dreams can come true with the right combination of self-belief and hard work.
Never give up
The same mentality has helped Marta become the player she is today. The Brazilian has been nominated for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year honour nine consecutive times and has taken the trophy home on five occasions. It is therefore no surprise that the 26-year-old is an idol for many young girls, and it is a role Marta herself is well aware of.
“I’m really happy and proud for everything I’ve achieved so far in my career,” said the striker. “It’s definitely a pleasure and an honour to be able to inspire people to follow my example and reach for what they really love in their lives. I’m really happy if I can somehow be a role model for girls who look to become professional footballers.
“My main advice would be for people to work hard and never give up when they have a dream, regardless of how difficult it might seem,” Marta continued. “You have to follow your goals and never miss the opportunities that life presents to you.”
Such sound guidance surely set Abby Wambach on her way to the top of the game at the start of her career. It was no accident that the 32-year-old was crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year 2012 earlier this month. “Any young women out there that want to live their goals, I would personally tell them to challenge themselves and to do something that scares them every single day,” Wambach said. “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Make choices and empower yourself to do whatever it is you love to do.”
However, Wambach is also conscious of the fact that not all women have the same opportunities and that women’s football remains in a fledging state in many countries. It is in such instances that FIFA implements its women’s football development programmes and offers member associations multifaceted support, ranging from expertise, teaching and promotional material to football equipment and financial assistance. The aim is to encourage and create competition opportunities at all levels for women and girls in the next few years.
“FIFA’s support in any campaign, whether it’s for women or men, is critical,” continued Wambach. “It’s imperative for some of these women around the world to have the opportunity to know that they can be playing or have the right to be playing. I’ve travelled around the world and I’ve often seen women look at me and wonder ‘how are you doing this?’ And ‘why are you doing this?’ It wouldn’t even cross their mind that a woman can play football. Being somebody that can tell them ‘Hey, you can go and do this’ is something life changing, not only for them but also for their kids and their future relatives, especially in areas that are affected by civil war, violence or human rights issues,” the forward said.
Such insights make it clear just how important the support for women’s football is. Accordingly, FIFA will continue to promote its women’s development programmes in order to guarantee that women and girls all over the world receive the necessary attention and equality, as well as having the chance to live out their dreams through football.