FIFA’s Live Your Goals campaign aims to bring more young girls into football across the world. Japan, currently a shining beacon for the women’s game at all levels, has taken up that banner with great gusto.
With Japan’s women’s team returning home proudly with silver medals around their necks from London 2012, the country is also getting set to host the sixth FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup later this month. This attention and focus on developing the women’s game makes Japan a perfect venue to push the Live Your Goals dream.
The East Asian nation hosted its third Live Your Goals festival on 13 August 2012. Girls aged six to 12 from Fukushima prefecture, a region ravaged by the tsunami, earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster in 2011, were invited to take part. The youngsters, 65 in all, were thrilled by the presence of Norio Sasaki, coach of the Nadeshiko side that recently went within a goal of winning gold in London, as well as older female players from the area. “There is a major role for Live Your Goals, and its legacy, as players develop and improve their skills at a rapid rate when they are young,” said coach Sasaki, a hero throughout Japan.
“It is important to keep the momentum of Nadeshiko's success to prepare the next generation with a special focus on girls in the U-12 and U-15 age group. With this programme we want to reach 300,000 female players registered by 2015,” added Junji Ogura, head of the Local Organising Committee for the upcoming FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, pointing out that part of the project’s legacy will be the establishment of a U-15 women’s league in Japan.
The festival included on-field drills and exercises for the young girls and a symbolic coming-together between FIFA and JFA officials, hoping to continue to push the women’s game forward. Karina Maruyama, one of the stars of the Japan national team, was also attending and said: “It is the first time I've come back to Fukushima after the disaster, so I’m very happy to be here. I’m here to enjoy the day with the girls.”
FIFA launched its Live Your Goals campaign in 2011, coinciding with the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. FIFA is continually working alongside its Member Associations, like Japan, to ensure the infrastructure that allows women and girls to participate in the sport. At present, Live Your Goals campaigns have been launched in Japan, Azerbaijan and Costa Rica.