A four-time winner of the UEFA Champions League and the only player in history to have won the trophy with three different clubs (Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan), FIFA Legend Clarence Seedorf sat down to talk with FIFA.com about his experience at the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion. The flamboyant midfielder, who played professionally for over two decades and in more than 1,000 matches at domestic and international level, was part of a keynote conversation with former Canada international Karina LeBlanc.
FIFA.com: What are your impressions of the women’s game at this stage, and how do you see it developing in the future?
Clarence Seedorf: I don‘t want to see women’s football copy men’s. I want women’s football to develop in its own way. I watched many games at the World Cup, and it’s getting better. It just needs time to grow and improve. I look at it not expecting to see a men’s game. I think perceptions and expectations should change. You should enjoy the quality they bring when they play, and that’s how I watched the World Cup, and I enjoyed it. Clearly so did the crowds.
So it’s fair to say that you are a fan of women’s football?
It’s not only entertaining, but I appreciate how the women uphold the values of sports – the pure and genuine way of celebrating goals, how they behave with the referee, the commitment and things like that – and I hope it will continue.
What did being involved in an event like this mean to you? What I like about this movement is that it’s active on the ground. This conference is an inspirational moment for those fighting for a more inclusive world. It is not about football alone, but a more inclusive society, and days like this will inspire people. But then after this – what? What happens then? How do we make sure there are changes? So I believe it is important to set goals, goals that we can agree on and help us move forward.
I don‘t want to see women’s football copy men’s. I want women’s football to develop in its own way.
What are some of those goals? Prejudice is what we need to fight in a very concrete way. FIFA has been taking definite steps by appointing diverse people in important positions. Actions speak louder than words. But we need to use words as well to keep working to a more inclusive environment, not only for women but also for all minorities.
Football has a lot to give back to society. We have a responsibility to do that, and we need to do it in the best way possible. Working now will create role models who will be positive for boys and girls. Male followers of women as well, and when we come to that point we will be at an interesting stage. This movement is for women’s football. It is the movement of change. You now have role models that are visible, and you have a competition that has a value.
Do you believe men have a special responsibility in helping the game develop? As I said, talking is good, but doing is better. Doing both even better. We all should have a bigger purpose. We should all be looking at how we can give back to the world of football. We need to develop all the areas that are sensitive to all kinds of people. Equality in terms of opportunities is fundamental especially. The inclusion of all minorities and creating a diverse environment in football is key. I think the FIFA President has set the tone in a very positive way.