Women’s football in Paraguay has taken a significant step forwards with the launch by the Paraguayan Football Association (APF) of a FIFA-supported strategic plan, which aims to lay the groundwork for a development and reinforcement programme within the South American country. The goal of the activities already undertaken is to encourage young girls from different walks of life to start playing the game from an early age.
The project began in 2010, when the first FIFA Com-Unity seminar, held in Asuncion, attracted a surprisingly large number of participants with a real interest in the women’s game. The Com-Unity course consisted of a three-day programme of working sessions open to the whole community, during which a strong focus was placed on the development, communication and marketing aspects of female football. Months later, a consultation process was carried out to assess the impact of the seminar and its teachings.
Activities have increased in recent months. On 18 August 2011 the country’s first-ever Interscholastic Women’s Football Championship was launched at the Club Fernando de la Mora stadium. The event was attended by APF President Juan Angel Napout, who said: “The Paraguayan FA, in line with the guidelines provided by FIFA and by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in particular, is pleased to initiate this inaugural APF-backed interscholastic tournament, which is sure to mark the beginning of a new era in the development of women’s football in Paraguay.”
Napout stressed that the FA would give priority to school competitions for now, and that next year would see the tournament expand to university level. The firm conviction held within the governing body of Paraguayan football is that the future of the women’s game lies with schools and universities, as has been demonstrated by countries where the sport is already considerably more advanced, such as Mexico, USA, Canada, Japan and China, among others.
For the moment, the tournament features 14 schools in the U-14 and U-16 age categories, with 396 budding footballers already registered to play. “I call on all the competitors to put in their very best effort, because those that stand out during this event will form part of the Paraguay side that will participate in the South American U-17 Championships next year,” said Napout who, together with representatives from FIFA and Eduardo Poletti, head of the APF’s Committee on Women’s Football, officially kicked off the competition.
Also present were various members of the APF’s Executive Committee, APF Technical Development Director Julio Carlos Gomez Caceres, APF Deputy Secretary General Wigberto Duarte, representatives of FIFA’s Development Offices in Zurich and Asuncion, as well as FIFA instructors with expertise in refereeing and coaching.
It goes without saying that a tournament with such lofty aims requires a strong, competently-run framework, so it was with that in mind that FIFA ran a variety of relevant courses between 15 and 20 August, the goal of which was to train coaches of the school teams taking part, as well as coaches of other Paraguayan football clubs, and the referees who will officiate during the competition.
One of the seminars that took place was a coaching course for both men and women, which was attended by 35 delegates. A training course was also held for referees, who will be gradually incorporated into the interscholastic tournament; 25 future officials participated in that session.