In February, The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2016 Carli Lloyd completed a headline-grabbing move, while Melbourne City made history, a new era began in Colombia and Colin Bell took on a new coaching post. FIFA.com brings you the month’s key events in the women’s game.
Colin Bell becomes Republic of Ireland coach
In February, the Republic of Ireland Football Association (FAI) announced that Colin Bell would take over as the new coach of the women’s national team. Born in England but with several years' coaching in Germany behind him (his last club was SC Sand in Germany’s Women’s Bundesliga), Bell succeeds Sue Ronan, who resigned after six years in the job. The Republic currently occupy 34th spot in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and are yet to qualify for a major tournament.
In 2015, Bell became 1. FFC Frankfurt’s first non-German coach to lead the club to the UEFA Women’s Champions League title, and he is extremely excited by his new challenge. "I'm very proud to be given this opportunity to lead the Republic of Ireland Women's Senior Team, and I regard it as a big honour,” said the 55-year-old. "I'll do my very best to help women's football in Ireland continue to grow and to make it more attractive to young girls, who can have the dream of playing football at a high level." Bell’s first games in charge are in March, when Ireland face Czech Republic, Hungary and Wales in Group B of the Cyprus Cup.
Canadian trio say goodbye
No fewer than three players announced their retirement from the Canada national team in February. Rhian Wilkinson, Melissa Tancredi and Marie-Eve Nault all bade their farewells after Canada’s emotional 3-2 friendly win against Mexico, the team’s first outing since the third-place play-off at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016. "To get to play at home one last time, it’s very, very special,” said Wilkinson, who took to the field in the 57th minute. "It’s been a difficult week, but we’ve kept our emotions in check. We know this is a big day for Marie-Eve, Melissa and I, but also for our families, who have put us first for a long time and need to be recognised for their contributions to our careers,” continued 34-year-old Wilkinson, who made her international debut back in 2003.
Melbourne make history
Melbourne City wrote their names into the history books in February, as they became the first ever side in Australia’s Westfield W-League to successfully defend the league title. The club from the state of Victoria sealed the historic achievement with an away win at Perth Glory. The last game of the Australian season attracted a crowd of some 5,000 spectators, a record attendance for a final. Player-manager Jessica Fishlock, who had already made a telling impact in the semi-final, proved to be a key figure in the decider as well by scoring the opening goal. Beverly Yanez then netted the second in a 2-0 win to send her team into raptures.
A new era in Colombia
On 18 February, the moment that Colombia’s female players had long been waiting for finally came to pass, with the go-ahead given for the creation of a professional women’s league. The league’s 18 registered clubs will be separated into three groups of six and compete in a hexagonal phase involving home and away games to be played by 7 May. The top two in each group, plus the two best third-placed sides, will qualify for the quarter-finals, which will also be two-legged affairs. The semi-finals will follow the same format, while the final, to be played in June, will be a one-off match to determine the first champions of the Liga Femenina Aquila. The winners will represent Colombia in the next edition of the Copa Libertadores de America. Furthermore, a deal has been signed with the Spanish Liga Iberdrola, whereby the champions of the respective leagues will face each other over two legs.
A superstar at City
USA international Carli Lloyd caused arguably the biggest stir last month when she announced her transfer to English side Manchester City on a short-term deal. The winner of The Best FIFA Women’s Player award for the past two years, Lloyd will return to Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League on 1 June. The 34-year-old is following the example of her compatriots Heather O’Reilly and Crystal Dunn, who moved to Arsenal Ladies and Chelsea Ladies respectively before the beginning of the new season. Manchester City begin the defence of their Women’s Super League title with a home tie against Chelsea on 23 April, while their Champions League campaign starts up against Danish outfit Fortuna Hjorring on 23 March.
Promotion of women’s football
Last month, the second edition of the FIFA Female Leadership Development Programme came to an end. The programme was launched in 2015 with the goal of helping to identify women in positions of leadership and as role models in football, and to increase the proportion of women at the game’s highest decision-making level. In total, 33 participants from the world’s six FIFA confederations - Asia (AFC), Africa (CAF), Central America (CONCACAF), South America (CONMEBOL), Europe (UEFA) and Oceania (OFC) – successfully completed the course, which was made up of three group workshops (of which two took place at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich). The course was centred around three pillars of learning: “leading yourself”, “leading others” and “leading in systems”.
“I hope the players feel that, with me, they have a coach who is committed to their development and performance, and that they enjoy their experiences. An important part of my work is [establishing] the link between the players and the whole coaching staff. You will leave a good legacy if you can create an environment in which everyone can feel comfortable and wants to belong. And obviously, if we can win a few more trophies and medals on the way, that wouldn’t be bad either!”
USA women’s national team coach Jill Ellis