A wide range of topics concerning women’s football was covered during a two-day seminar sponsored by CONCACAF towards the end of October, and the general consensus is that, while there is still much work to be done to realise the full potential of women’s involvement in the sport, the game is thriving throughout the region.
The ‘Let’s Develop Women’s Football’ seminar, set amid the backdrop of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship 2014 semi-finals and finals held in Philadelphia, focused on recent success stories within the region and elsewhere in the world, as a method of developing new ideas to further expand the reach and effectiveness of women’s participation in football in North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The first day of the summit consisted of five panels, moderated by Ann Schatz, an accomplished sports broadcaster, speaker and entrepreneur. Each panel covered a different aspect of the game, and the panelists drew inspiration from successes experienced throughout the confederation to offer suggestions and ideas to help improve the state of women’s football within the region.
The second day of the event was focused on organising a workshop for Member Associations, where both FIFA and CONCACAF presented their programmes and ideas for the next four years. Female representatives from different associations took the floor to present on key topics and their own experiences during the workshop; grassroots, pathway to success and the future ahead were among the topics presented.
Together moving forward
During the two-day CONCACAF event, senior staff devoted to promoting women’s football from FIFA were also involved. FIFA Women’s Football Development Manager, Mayrilian Cruz-Blanco expressed her delight with the summit and what it means for the future of women’s football. "I think in general this initiative from CONCACAF is fantastic," Cruz-Blanco explained. “It was great to bring together the group of people that are working in women's football in the region, and sharing ideas, knowledge and best-practices will help moving forward. Having a moment for great women to talk about their experience, how they have gone through football, how they have succeeded, was very inspirational.
“The working groups among Member Associations also provided an opportunity to see what their vision is for future development. We are looking forward to working with CONACACAF for the Member Associations of the region."
Cruz-Blanco was joined by FIFA’s Head of Women’s Competitions Tatjana Haenni at the seminar. Haenni, who is focused on delivering the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Canada next year, agreed on the importance of the seminar. "It's very important to get together and share the different experiences,” Haenni said. “Sometimes you think, 'In my country it is super difficult,' but then you see that there are other countries where they have similar problems. And then most of all, that there are always solutions."
One panel focused on the benefits for the continued development of women’s football by hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the region. "This is my main area, it's about hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup,” Haenni added. “It was interesting, I think it was great to listen some of the comments from the ones who organised past events. I think it was great to see the development, to see from 1999 how far women's football has come.”
Other panels included discussions of how football has changed the lives of women involved in the game. The fourth panel covered multiple ways in which women can get involved in the game without being a professional footballer. The panel, comprised of a coach, a referee, a sports broadcaster and football administrators discussed myriad opportunities women have to make an impact on football, even if they do not play the game. The seminar helped shine light on opportunities available to all women and highlighted career paths within football, that perhaps are not commonly considered by those wishing to stay involved in the game.
Lastly, the fifth panel looked at the importance of the continued development of women’s professional football leagues for the confederation. Professional leagues provide regular training and competition to a huge number of women’s footballers, which then correlates into positive results on the international stage. Here, Haenni brought up the idea of creating a FIFA Women’s World Club competition akin to the FIFA Club World Cup on the men’s side as a step to further incentivise the development of women’s football league’s around the world.
An impressive amount of content was covered in the two-day seminar, which concluded with an interactive workshop, where 39 of CONCACAF’s 41 Member Associations participated. The outlook from everyone involved with the event was bright, as the future of women’s football shows great promise and Canada 2015 awaits just around the corner, ready to serve as the next major benchmark of women’s football progress around the world.