Bien-Aime: Everyone should be encouraged

Sonia Bien-Aime of the Turks and Caicos Islands speaks exclusively to FIFA.com as part of a series of interviews with the four candidates vying to become the first woman to be elected onto FIFA’s Executive Committee.

FIFA.com: Can you introduce yourself?
Sonia Bien-Aime:
Born on the small island of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, I am a former multi-sport athlete who represented my country in track and field, softball and as captain of the national football team.

After moving away from the playing field, I still had a burning passion for football and sought to contribute to the development and administration of the sport. I was appointed General Secretary of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) in April 2006 after 14 years of service in the legal field.

My passion and commitment for sports from a very young age has led to my appointment to leadership roles in sports development. I’ve served as Chairperson of the TCI Sports Commission, member of the TCIFA Executive Committee and Chairperson of the first TCIFA Women’s Football Committee.

In addition, I was elected to the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Executive Committee, Chairperson of the CFU Women’s Football Committee and I am also a member of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Organising Committee.

What importance do you attach to being nominated by your confederation?
This is a nomination that I accept with great humility and honour. It reflects a vote of confidence in my ability by the CONCACAF President, the Executive Committee and by my colleagues and peers. It is hard to put this into perspective, especially when one seeks to serve without being lauded. However, given the massive impact of such a nomination, one must take pause and thank those who see me as fit to take on this welcomed but Herculean task. This nomination also presents the opportunity to represent CONCACAF and especially the Caribbean nations, which make up 12 per cent of FIFA’s member associations.

How did you react to the FIFA President’s proposal in 2011 to have a woman on the Executive Committee?
I thought it was an innovative approach by the FIFA President to advance female participation in the decision-making processes within football. It is FIFA saying that not only are we committed not only to growing women’s football but we are also a gender-neutral organisation that recognises the role women can play in its movement to further develop and improve the sport. Hopefully, it will encourage member associations to look closely at the composition of their own Executive Committees and follow suit.

If you were elected, how would you see your role?
Partly to listen, consult and deliberate with my fellow members on the issues of the day. In addition, to craft and bring new ideas to the table to make a positive contribution to FIFA. Although the candidacy is limited to females, it is not only a female perspective they seek, but knowledge and insight from females who are active in the administration of football and who can give a voice to certain issues.

What is your vision for women’s football?
That no female should be denied the opportunity to play football because it is viewed by some for whatever reason as inappropriate. That all member associations are given the encouragement, education and expertise to enable them to organise and enter the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying competition by 2023.

We’d like to ask you some personal questions based on the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ so that we can find out more about you. What is your favourite motto?
It is not where you came from, it’s where you’re going.

Who is your favourite heroine of all time?
Rosa Parks – a strong African-American civil rights activist who was concerned about freedom, equality, justice and prosperity for all people.

And in football?
Mia Hamm.

Which match will you always remember?
The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup final. The match between the USA and Japan was one of the most exciting yet emotional games of football for me. Japan displayed not only excellent technique but more importantly a “never say die” attitude, self-belief, a bond to work hard for team and country, and being motivated by the tragic earthquake still fresh and raw in the players’ minds, they were able to complete an historic victory. Being from CONCACAF it was a bitter-sweet experience.

What is your favourite word?
Try.

The word that you hate the most?
Impossible.

This interview will be published to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March. Is this day important to you?
Absolutely – to be featured on a day that has been celebrated around the world since the early 1900s, highlighting women for their achievements, is obviously an honour. Too often women are marginalised and it is apparent in the world of sports. One would hope that with effort and time, the playing field will be levelled and the glass ceiling eliminated. International Women’s Day is a constant reminder that we are getting close, but we’re not there yet.