International Women's Day (IWD) is on 8 March
FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy helps member associations around the globe
Belarus recently launched a U-13 league for girls
WOOOOW! – This is the tagline the Belarus Football Association (ABFF) used recently to take a big step forward in fostering women’s football in the country with FIFA’s help.
A prior study had revealed a void between the youngest players and those in the U-16 girls’ league in Belarus. As a result, the U-13 WOOOOW! girls’ league was set up, and it became an instant success with 60 new teams, 1,200 players and 418 matches over 54 matchdays.
"At first, this project was created as a complement to the ABFF football competition system for girls and women, to bridge the gap between minors and the WU-16 league,” said Nina Travkina, who co-led the project as FIFA’s women's football expert. "However, it turned out to be much bigger than just building a player pathway. With the help of this project message about girls' and women's football, which was spread throughout Belarus, it was a powerful tool to speak loudly about the game.
“It was both a game-changer and a mind-changer for people who initially thought football wasn't for girls. But we proved that it can be modern, stylish, dynamic and beautiful. Girls' football in Belarus is gaining a new and eye-catching identity that unites people [parents, coaches, fans]. The new league provided a new opportunity for so many girls to play, as well as a platform for 60 coaches to grow and expand their knowledge during educational workshops organised by FIFA and the ABFF. By way of comparison, we were able to increase the percentage of young female footballers across the country by over 30 per cent in just the first season. That’s a huge success."
Planning: March to December 2018
Start: February 2019
First season of the !WOOOOW! girls’ league
April - June 2019
Second season of the !WOOOOW! girls’ league
September 2019 – June 2020
1,200 pairs of football boots
1,200 pairs of shin pads
60 goal nets
The next step that the ABFF is working on is to develop a system of women's competitions using their experience with the U-13 league. The plan is to establish leagues for U-13, U-15, U-17 and U-19 age groups as well as to develop a university league. Competitions for U-9 and U-11 age groups will be organised in a festival format.
The project in Belarus is undoubtedly one of the flagship initiatives of FIFA's Women’s Football Strategy, which focuses, among other things, on developing the leagues in member associations. Through this programme, FIFA aims - in accordance with its priorities - to permanently increase the participation of girls and women in football. It does so by supporting member associations in launching or strengthening new or existing competitions, as well as in the further training of coaches, thus providing female players with a safe and structured environment in which they can develop.
Equipment for teams
Further training for coaches (coaching courses)
Two years of support
Although women’s football has grown exponentially at all levels in recent times, the passion for and potential of the sport offers vast untapped opportunities. The launch of the FIFA Women’s Football Strategy charts the course for how FIFA will work with all stakeholders to take concrete steps to empower girls and women, make football a sport for all and advocate against gender discrimination.
This article is part of our series focused on women’s football, and women in football, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. To find out more about FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and Development Programmes, and to read more articles like this, click here.