On 10 March this year, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, hosted the first of seven “Live Your Goal” festivals as part of a campaign to encourage more girls and women around the world to play football. The second event was held in the city of Zagatala on Saturday 28 April. And, just like the first, it proved to be a great success.
“Thanks to this second Live Your Goal festival in Azerbaijan, enthusiasm for women’s football will continue to spread throughout the whole country,” said women’s football legend Steffi Jones, an ambassador for the project. “I’m delighted to see that more and more girls are playing football, and also that they have the desire and the passion to pursue their goals.”
Azerbaijani football icons Iskandar Javadov and Rustam Rahimov were both at the festival, along with current U-17 player Shahnaz Mammadova. But they were by no means alone. Indeed, women’s football is thriving in Zagatala, with two of the city’s first teams competing in the U-15 and U-17 championships.
“Many people think – wrongly – that football is first and foremost a male sport. But our girls are proving otherwise,” said Rahimov. Javadov, for his part, added: “I’m pleased to see how much and how quickly women’s football has been able to develop in the country, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Azerbaijani Football Association (AFFA) and FIFA. It’s clear that these kinds of festivals contribute to that development.”
After being treated to a special performance by local music star Efgan Khudulov, the festival-goers had the chance to enjoy a kick-around and receive advice from well-known coaches. Later, Top-Top, the official mascot of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, brought her sunny disposition to the event by inviting the attendees to get up and dance.
“Staging festivals like this around the country is crucial, as we believe it helps to encourage more young girls to play and enjoy football,” said Elkhan Mammadov, General Secretary of the AFFA. “I am very grateful to FIFA, who are helping us to organise these events. I am sure that we will reap the benefits in the very near future.”