Asian women’s football has enjoyed a productive three days in Kuala Lumpur with the successful staging of the FIFA/AFC Conference on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™.
The Malaysian capital was host to some 80 representatives from a broad cross-section of the Asian Football Confederation’s expansive geographic spread. The conference follows the equally positive event held in Johannesburg for the African continent last month.
Aside from the many Member Associations represented, there was also star power with the likes of Japan’s FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning coach Norio Sasaki, Australia’s highly experienced mentor Tom Sermanni, as well as Germany 2011 FIFA Technical Study Group members, Tina Theune and April Heinrichs, all in attendance.
The event included numerous activities and presentations, featuring a variety of speakers covering a range of subjects. Primarily, though, it was an opportunity to pass on to AFC Member Associations the expertise acquired at Germany 2011, with a focus on how Asian nations can benefit.
It was also an opportunity to share ideas on how to maximise the growth and development of the game, both on and off the field. In particular, working groups identified the challenges, possible solutions and the way forward for the game.
A highlight was a presentation by representatives of the Japan FA, including FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year nominee Sasaki, on the reasons behind the Nadeshiko’s historic success in Germany.
Additionally, FIFA Head of Development Jurg Nepfer, and Women’s Football Development Manager Mayi Turner-Kerr made a presentation on FIFA Women’s Football Competitions and Development Programmes 2012-2015.
“There is a number of new programmes and services standardised, but tailor-made to the needs of Member Associations,” said Nepfer. “We are here to help you as much as we can as long as you have the desire to develop your game. If you do, FIFA does.”
Australia’s three-time FIFA Women’s World Cup coach Sermanni told FIFA.com the event was highly beneficial. “For people such as myself to see what Japan are doing was inspiring and very impressive," he said.
“It was a very positive mood with everyone working in synergy, and although there is a big difference between many nations in terms of development, there was definitely value for everyone. There was a very positive vibe with lots of passionate people with the drive to do their best for the women’s game.
“At the top end we know the Asian game is very well placed. There is also some impressive growth and development occurring in west Asia and places like India.
“I think it goes without staying that aside from UEFA it is the strongest Asian confederation by a long way, at the top and bottom end so that is pleasing.”
Sleeping giant wide awake
Asia’s success on the world stage in recent years has been phenomenal. Five years ago Asia - for the first time in a FIFA competition - was represented by two teams in a final as Korea DPR defeated China PR at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia. Both editions of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup held to date have seen Asian teams crowned, with a remarkable three semi-finalists from the continent at Trinidad & Tobago 2010.
The crowing glory, however, was Germany 2011 as Japan became the first Asian nation to win a senior FIFA World Cup. It was undoubtedly a breakthrough moment, perhaps not least of all for the fact that traditional women’s football heavyweights - Germany, Sweden and USA – were among the Nadeshiko’s victims.
“Japan showed the strength of Asian football at this year’s World Cup,” former USA coach Heinrichs told FIFA.com. ”Some people were doubters before Japan achieved what they did, perhaps myself included, but Asian teams have undoubtedly shown they can compete against anyone.
“Not only did they have [three] teams at the World Cup, but there is the likes of China, who I’m sure will rebound after missing this year’s tournament, and also Korea Republic, who have done so well at youth tournaments and obviously those players will matriculate to the senior team.
“Whoever came up with AFC’s slogan of ‘The Future Is Asia’ is onto something, because it is very apt.”