It took nine months of hard work and dedication, but in the end, it was all worth it. All 33 participants in the second edition of the FIFA Female Leadership Development Programme (FLDP), which promotes the development of female leaders in football, had successfully completed the course. With those taking part from the world’s six FIFA confederations - Asia (AFC), Africa (CAF), Central America (CONCACAF), South America (CONMEBOL), Europe (UEFA) and Oceania (OFC) - the event in Amsterdam constituted a truly global success.

“For me, just freshly coming out of the game, programme helped me to identify within myself my own leadership skills,” said Karina LeBlanc, the former Canada goalkeeper who retired from playing for her country after the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.

“These women helped me see that in 18 years playing for my country, there were so many things I learned in the sport of soccer that can help the next generation, but can also help myself,” continued the 36-year-old, who ended her career outright in September 2015 at the end of the USA’s National Women’s Soccer League. “Those skills and those things I have learned are so useful for life. These women have empowered me to believe that I have a voice, I have a force. I would have never identified it if it were not for every woman in this leadership programme and the mentors.”

Alongside dozens of other women in Amsterdam, LeBlanc completed the third and final module of the FDLP, which was brought to fruition in 2015 and is staged in partnership with the THNK School of Creative Leadership. The course was made up of three group workshops (of which two took place at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich), enabling participants to amass a variety of practical experiences. The three pillars of learning are: leading yourself, leading others and leading in systems.

Empowered, involved
“This programme means we now have a voice,” said Ciata Bishop from Liberia. “I’m glad they included us, and I’m glad we were in the second group. As African women it allows us to become a little more empowered and to become a lot more involved in where women’s football is going to go in the future. It’s really meant a lot to us. It has also made me a bit more extrovert.”

Those ringing endorsements clearly show just what the programme means for the women involved and the opportunities afforded them because of it. Like their predecessors who completed the inaugural edition of the course, the class of 2017 was set an important challenge as they begin their journey: aim high and inspire the next female generation.

“Women are occupying a bigger place in football all the time, and that’s how it has to be,” said Moya Dodd, chair of FIFA’s Task Force for Women’s Football. “This programme was designed to help more women leaders step up and take their place in the game. We have over 30 women here; the first edition had 35. There are dozens of women that have graduated from this programme and will hopefully be in a better position to take leadership roles in the game.”

Now each football association and confederation represented on the programme will be responsible for promoting those female participants’ development and supporting them in their work.