Music, football and fun created a fantastic atmosphere as the second Girl’s football festival took place recently in Guayaquil, Ecuador. FIFA, the Ecuadorian Football Federation and the provincial government linked up for the second time to repeat an already successful event. Local bands played and medical brigades provided check-ups to the largely low income attendees. Local sponsors provided drinks and the Ecuadorian Football Federation’s caterers prepared over seven hundred snacks. This was, indeed, a festival in its truest sense.
Growing numbers normally give an indication of how a plan is shaping up, and twelve months on from last year’s festival you can now multiply girl’s football clubs by fifteen. 400 boys and girls took part in last year’s festival, with the split about even at roughly two hundred each. A year ago only two girls’ clubs existed in the province, but now the number has increased to over thirty. It is hoped, the second festival will help to establish even further growth in Ecuadorian women’s football.
The majority of the girls at the festival are also involved in the regional government’s football project run by the Prefecture of Guayas. They have over 6,000 young players, boys and girls playing, and since the first Girl’s festival, last year, they decided to change the rules to their regional competitions, by including a minimum of one girl in each team from U-6 to U-10 level. At first many coaches refused and were forced by the new regulation to play with a reduced team of ten players. Then bit by bit the coaches realised that the girls made a valuable contribution and would sometimes include more than one, which in turn produced more and better young female players. Locals also like to tell of the nine-year-old girl who scored the goal that gave the Balao team the championship title.
Football for greater good
It’s not all about winning and the aim of the programme is about social inclusivity rather than producing professional footballers. “We are not about producing footballing stars, but life stars,” said Prefecture representative Jimmy Jairala. The programme has already produced two future women coaches and a player for the U-17 national team. This year sports leaders from all over the country will take part in the two day seminar, preceding the festival, and the festival itself. They can take back the news and information to begin similar programmes around the country.
Logic suggests that if you give a Latin girl a football she will know what to do with it. Growing up she will have heard her father, brothers and their friends discuss the minor and major details of the game, and how their clubs and national teams were doing. The television would regularly be tuned onto sport and names of famous footballers would bounce around conversations with excitement.
Traditionally, though, football has been a male domain across much of Latin America, although that is fast changing.
As Ecuadorian Football Federation’s General Secretary, Francisco Acosta explained: “Let’s forget our past mistakes; we need to move forward in a positive way. I propose we get together and see how we can create an under-17 women’s football championship, at national level”.
The way forward is now being mapped out the as the FIFA girl’s festival format has been reproduced, around the province, to the exact same standards, and a national women’s youth league is about to happen.
As more and more girls and women,\ in Ecuador, get involved in football; little by little there is an acceptance that football is a game for everyone.