On Saturday 8 March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day for the 100th time. In sport as in many other walks of life, women have had to fight for equality and recognition.
As football’s governing body, FIFA has, for many years now, used sport as a vehicle for social progress, especially in terms of education and health. Courtesy of a deliberate and flexible development strategy, women and girls from different countries and cultures are now able to play the game they love.
For millions of young girls, football is synonymous with self-confidence, a safe environment and freedom from the pressures of society. FIFA has invested significantly in women’s football and is keen to offer even more opportunities to female players, coaches, referees and administrators.
The efforts undertaken by FIFA, which can be rightly proud of its achievements, have produced impressive results from a developmental point of view.
Between 15 March and 4 April, Costa Rica will play host to the fourth edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. A few days after the tournament concludes, on 27 April, the 100-day countdown to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will begin.
Scheduled to be staged in Canada, the competition will serve as a dress rehearsal for the senior FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2015, which will feature 24 competing teams for the first time.
“I’m happy for the game, and for the level it’s got to. I'm glad that these women are able to compete on a more consistent basis and not only get together and play with the national team a couple of times a year,” said former United States international Mia Hamm in a recent exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
“The federations are investing in the programme and you are seeing world championships at all different youth levels. The games are real celebrations. This is exciting, not only as a former player, but as a fan of the game,” she continued.
Indeed, the top international women’s teams on the planet are currently locking horns at prestigious tournaments such as the Algarve Cup and the Cyprus Cup. At the same time, a Live Your Goals festival has been organised in Costa Rica in the run-up to the U-17 Women’s World Cup to mark International Women’s Day.
Lydia Nsekera, who became the first woman to join FIFA’s Executive Committee in May 2012, had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica recently. The 46-year-old Burundian was in the Central American nation in December to assist with the draw for the global U-17 contest.
Since then, two other women have become members of the Executive Committee alongside Nsekera, namely Moya Dodd (Australia) and Sonia Bien-Aime (Turks and Caicos Islands).
“Without a doubt, one vital factor is the inclusion of women in key strategic and technical positions,” wrote FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in his editorial for the latest edition of The FIFA Weekly.
“Three women – Moya Dodd, Sonia Bien-Aime and Lydia Nsekera – sit on the FIFA Executive Committee. This is a first step. Women should be taking on an even more important role in coaching and management. Gender equality must be advanced in every area and at every level.”
FIFA has encouraged gender equality and urged more and more women to take up football-related roles, as it is convinced that an increased female presence in the game can inspire profound social change. The governing body has called on its 209 member associations to support women’s football and, by extension, women themselves.
Key figures hopeful
“The sport is growing and as it does more and more outstanding players are emerging,” five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Marta told FIFA.com earlier this week.
“The competition [for the Women’s World Player award] is getting fiercer all the time, but that adds lustre to the sport and stimulates the growth of women’s football. I’m sure that in the future more and more different players will win it,” added the Brazilian forward.
Nadine Angerer is the most recent recipient of the illustrious accolade. The 2007 World Cup winner knows better than anyone that the general progress made by women’s football has also benefitted goalkeepers.
“Goalkeepers were often seen as the weak link, and it was a kind of neglected position in a lot of teams. The outfield players got all the attention and the goalkeepers were forgotten about to some extent. These days, however, coaches are well aware of just how important a position it is, and you now see a lot of ambitious projects that give the better keepers the coaching they need,” she explained in an interview with FIFA.com.
Although Japan emerged victorious at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the United States, the reigning Olympic champions, currently sit atop the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking. In a chat with FIFA.com on Friday, American international Sydney Leroux discussed the Stars and Stripes’ objectives, with one year to go before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.
“Obviously our team goal is to continue to be the best in the world,” she stated confidently.
The future of women’s football worldwide certainly appears bright. Gaps between teams are closing and an increasing number of sides now appear capable of competing for major international honours. The overall level of play is constantly improving, from the upper echelons to grassroots level, due to the sport’s burgeoning popularity across the globe.
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It goes without saying that FIFA.com will continue to keep you up-to-date with all the latest developments in the women’s game. As well as providing our readers with remarkable video clips, fascinating photos, exclusive interviews and in-depth articles, we offer a weekly review of women’s club action and a monthly round-up of news from the world of female football.
In addition, our teams will deliver unrivalled coverage of upcoming FIFA-run women’s tournaments, starting next week with the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.