There is no sight more heartwarming than children full of enthusiasm, their eyes sparkling. Live Your Goals seeks to ensure that girls in every corner of the globe have the opportunity to play football in a joyful and happy environment. The campaign continued its efforts with numerous festivals in September 2015. FIFA.com looks back on some highlights of the past few weeks.
Buzzing in Belgium: Role models on hand in the hunt for goals
More than 200 football-mad girls accepted an invitation from the Royal Belgian Football Association and Live Your Goals to visit the national football centre in Tubize. Together with several of the country’s internationals, young hopefuls between the ages of 12 and 16 completed a training session that was both entertaining and instructive. “Just a few years ago I could never have imagined such a display of enthusiasm,” said Ives Serneels, coach of Belgium’s women’s national team. “I’ve never experienced a women’s football event of this size,” added defender Heleen Jaques. “Although we’ve taken part in smaller football festivals before, Live Your Goals is on a completely different scale.”
Made up of small-group exercises, the training session was planned in precise detail by qualified coaches. While there is no doubt that a spirit of fun and discovery was at the heart of the event, it also gave those in attendance a unique opportunity to meet some of Belgium’s top players. “The girls thought of us as professionals, looking at us wide-eyed in curiosity and innocently asking one question after another,” said captain Aline Zeler, adding: “For me, a day like that is something very special.” The Royal Belgium Football Association has experienced a increase in female player registrations of more than 20 per cent over the past two years and is aiming to increase the number of members playing women’s football to 35,000 in the foreseeable future by adopting a sophisticated strategy, with the first Live Your Goals festival held in Belgium forming a key part of this plan.
*Full of life in Latvia: Football as part of a healthy lifestyle *The event held in the Latvian capital Riga proved to be just as successful as its Belgian counterpart, where an impressive 196 girls took part in the Live Your Goals festival – a record for the country. Ten national team players took on the role of coaches, guiding the attendees through a football-themed circuit training session with several stations aimed at improving ball skills, passing accuracy and coordination. “It was a wonderful, amazing day because we once again managed to bring joy to these aspiring young players and put smiles on their faces,” said Nina Travkina, women’s football development manager at the Latvian Football Federation (LFF).
The country’s latest event was focused on giving school-age girls a chance to follow their passion with a ball at their feet and providing them with an opportunity to talk and exchange views on the world’s most popular sport, appreciate its value and view women’s football as an ideal way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Camera crews from two television channels were even on hand to report on the sport’s increasing popularity among women and girls in Latvia and show off the calibre of football on display at the event. “Oh yes, there’s no doubting how talented they are,” grinned Travkina.
*Milestone in Macedonia: Giving girls a home for football *Finally, Skopje provided the setting for another inspiring Live Your Goals festival. Norwegian women’s football legend and captain of the World Cup winning team of 1995, Heidi Store, travelled to the Macedonian capita to spend an action-packed, colourful and varied weekend on the pitch with around 200 talented youngsters with a keen eye for goal. “The girls in Macedonia are no less talented than those in Norway and Germany,” the 52-year-old explained. “I’ve been there and seen the sparkle in their eyes. It’s wonderful to be able to help them play football, a sport they love every bit as much as I do.”
Approximately 600 players of all ages currently play women’s football in Macedonia, of which almost 400 are registered. There is plenty of motivation for the sport to grow in this nation of two million people on the Balkan Peninsula. The Live Your Goals event was not only a resounding success but also helped to raise the public profile of this increasingly popular sport. As Store emphasised: “The most important thing is to give these girls a place and a space where they feel welcome to play and hang out.”