Gambia breaking down barriers for girls to play football

9 Sep 2021
  • Adidas equipment for 14 teams in the ‘Play N Grow league’

  • 28 team league by 2023

  • All 7 regions playing organised football and feeding the national team structure

“My life is my life. I know what is good and what is bad and football has been good.” Gambian teenager Sira Bah had a job convincing her parents that football could offer a path as viable as anything she could learn in the classroom.

But FIFA’s partnership with adidas to aid the GFF Women’s Football League Development programme had a big part in helping her make a compelling argument at home and in school.

“People kept asking me, why can’t you follow your education? So I told them no, education doesn’t mean it is all about in the class. Extra curricular activities are important too for your education. I tried to convince my parents and it is my life.

“They told me I had to stop it but I told them, no, I cannot stop. It is my hobby and I cannot stop now. I started to join an organised team. My Mum told me to stop playing football again but my step-mum is a coach. My Mum still told me to give it up but I convinced her. “I am now Head Girl. I am very proud of myself. I would like to thank FIFA because you have been so innovative and have visualised so I thank you for your care and attention.”

There has been a clear strategy implemented in Gambia in order to facilitate regular participation in structured U-17 leagues to help grow the game at grassroots level while also helping communities where the social-cultural issues can be significant.

Adidas will offer practical assistance through the donation of equipment that will sustain 14 teams. There will also be financial help in place with a $50,000 contribution in the opening year of the FIFA/GFF Girls Football League. Expert support will also be provided.

The opening league kicked off this year with 14 teams involved but the ambition is to continue to build on that. By 2022 the aim is to increase that to 20 teams, a number that will rise to 28 the following season. The anticipation is that higher number of players will create opportunities for 50 coaches to continue the development of grassroots football.

This will create a pathway towards the national team with all 7 regions contributing to the development of women’s football with higher numbers of players, coaches, administrators and referees who will all be absorbed into the national team structure.

FIFA Women’s Football Expert, Thuba Sibanda has been enthused at the extensive development that has gone to offer clear opportunities for girls to access a football pathway. “The work being done in Gambia and the incredible stories of Gambian girls and women who fight every day to play the sport that they love, is a strong reminder of why football matters. A strong reminder of why it is important to make football accessible to all and inspire girls to chase their dreams.

“We must ensure equal access to resources, education and infrastructure, provide a safe environment for girls and women to play football and continue to empower them. We can help those working in football to build their confidence and overcome the gender barriers that have impeded girls and women from participating in the past. “The more we can do this, the more we can ensure that our girls and women are winning on and off the pitch. Helping to build their communities, to be places for their dreams to be realised for a brighter future.” The launch of the first-ever FIFA Women’s Football Strategy in 2018, combined with the huge success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2019, shows that the prioritisation of the women’s game is at an all-time high. FIFA’s goal is to bring the women’s game into the mainstream, ensuring that opportunities in football exist for women and girls everywhere – both on and off the pitch. The suite of FIFA women’s football development programmes for 2020- 2023 launched on 8 September 2021, was designed to offer new possibilities to all member associations and should go hand in hand with the financial support received through the FIFA Forward Programme. These programmes can be adapted to meet each member association’s unique needs and vision for women’s football.