England international and three-time FIFA Women’s World Cup™ participant Alex Scott has spent the past few days in Papua New Guinea in an ambassadorial role. The primary task was promotion of #ENDViolence - an awareness campaign aimed at ending violence towards women and children in the region.
Scott participated in the Universal Children’s Day ‘Walk for Life’ event and several other grassroots activities, and also found time to take in four matches among a packed schedule. FIFA.com asked her about her experiences in Papua New Guinea and her thoughts on the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
FIFA.com: Tell us about your experiences out and about in PNG? Alex Scott: I have had an amazing four days. It is a passion of mine to do things like this and be able to go into schools and talk and inspire. But it is not just about me. Yes, I’m a FIFA ambassador and it is great to be here, but it is also about the PNG girls. When the tournament is finished and we all go home, these girls need to step up and be the role-models and continue the fight against violence in this country.
It seems like you have had first-hand experience of football making a difference to people? Going to the schools proved that football can do on so many levels. We went into one school and the school went mad for the girls (PNG team). Everyone wanted to hear from the goalkeeper who had such an amazing game, and they were clapping and cheering her. She was so nervous, that when she was asked a question that she started to cry onstage. But by the next school she had gained confidence from seeing the other girls speak, and when she got asked a question, we all thought ‘oh no’, but she was able to answer right away. It was actually an emotional moment.
We all know it has been a challenge to host a World Cup here but there have been so many positive stories to come out of this. Seeing PNG score their first-ever goal gave us all goosebumps. Things like that remind you how beautiful football is and how you can use it so many ways to inspire.
How important is it to have tournaments such as this in developing football nations? This tournament has really highlighted that. From the magical moment when PNG scored and they all celebrated with the coach, to the France game when the players went to the fans after the game having received so much support from the local fan group, and that actually gave me goosebumps. The local people are really engaging with the game, and the players engaging with the local community.
Has there been an aspect of PNG culture that has intrigued? The thing is when I got asked to do this, I read up and watched documentaries, and you hear all the horror stories. And that still goes on, the level of violence against women. It blows my mind that such stuff goes on. But when you get here and talk to people they are so nice, and everyone is so welcoming. So with that in mind, I find it all hard to comprehend.
What do you think of the quality of football you have seen? I have been so impressed. We have gone from a stage where teams are all about being strong, robust and physical ability to high technical ability, playing out from the back, playing through the thirds, all of which we have seen in this tournament. There have been some great goals, and some really stand-out players so I have so impressed with all the games I have been to.
Do you feel the quality on display at Papua New Guinea 2016 is evidence of the growth of Women’s Football? There has almost been a knock-on effect. The women’s game is growing at the top level, and we have seen players starting high-quality training at a younger age, and that is where we are seeing good quality technical ability come through at a younger age now.
Is there a particular team that has stood out for you? I haven’t seen Japan in the few days I have been here, and everyone has been raving about them. Of the teams I have seen, I must admit Germany looked good. They are typically German in terms of their ball speed, and they are good at getting the balls up the channels, they are just so efficient. But they also have also scored good individual goals. So it pains me to say, but I was really impressed with Germany (laughs)!
What message would you like to pass on to local females? As I told the girls (PNG players), they need to carry on and continue this fight. They are now role-models and grown in confidence, and they now need to show the other generations coming through about what they can achieve. It is about leaving a legacy. I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of things through playing football, but this has been an amazing four days that I will always remember.