Two debutants to make their bow

15 Sep 2021
  • Cyprus and Luxembourg competing in FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying for the first time

  • Youth development in focus in both countries

  • More quality through greater quantity

Taking part at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ is a milestone career achievement for many players. While numerous countries are regular participants at the global showdown, several others have their sights set on reaching the tournament for the first time. Yet for the women's national teams of Cyprus and Luxembourg, a very different historic event is on the horizon: both teams will be competing in Women's World Cup qualifying for the first time ever. “We thought long and hard about whether it’s a step we should take,” said Carine Nardecchia, president of the women’s commission at the Luxembourg Football Association, in an interview with FIFA.com. “We decided to do so because we believe it’s the right way to develop. By participating, we hope that women’s football in Luxembourg will gain more media coverage. Young girls should get the message that women’s football is on the rise and that you can pursue your passion as a girl at a football club.”

Luxembourg will face England, Austria, Northern Ireland, North Macedonia and Lithuania in qualifying Group D, and Daniel Santos’ side are aiming to learn from their opponents in order to further their own development and draw conclusions about their strengths and weaknesses. “We’re on the right path and two years ago we carried out an analysis of women’s football in Luxembourg,” said Nardecchia, who is also involved in youth football and is the nation’s futsal president in addition to her role in the women’s game. “We thought about what we could improve and we set ourselves clear objectives.

Women's National Team of Luxemburg. Picture courtesy of Fédération Luxembourgeoise de Football

“We established a new project with Mr. Santos in which we expanded the coaching staff, made training sessions more regular and put the focus on youth development,” she continued. “The aim is to work with TikTok in the U-13, U-15 and U-17 categories in order to bring younger girls closer to football and to show them that it’s not just boys who play it. For example, we’ve got a very good crop of players among those born in 2007 and 2008. At the same time, I thought it was important to introduce the women of our national team to the public via Facebook. From now on, one, two or three players, including the coaching staff and support staff, will be featured every day. I want the women’s team to be in the spotlight and for people outside to know exactly which players are representing Luxembourg.”

Youth development (girls) in Luxembourg

  • 62 women’s teams including youth teams

  • U-13 national teams (three training sessions per week)

  • U-15 national teams (four training sessions per week)

  • U-17 national teams (three to four training sessions per week)

  • Talent scouting training (once a week)

Cyprus focusing on quantity

The development of women’s football is also gaining momentum in Cyprus. The country’s women’s team has never taken part in the Cyprus Cup, which it has hosted since 2008, but the tournament nevertheless brings women’s football closer to the locals on the island in the eastern Mediterranean. The aim is that taking part in Women’s World Cup qualifying will do likewise. “It’s very, very important for women and girls that we participate in qualifying competitions,” said former Cyprus international Froso Ppekri, who is now responsible for the development of women’s football at the Cyprus Football Association. “It gives the players something to play for. It’s an honour for them to represent their country. Even in our difficult group with the Netherlands, one of the best teams in Europe, and Iceland, it will be a great experience.”

Youth Football Cyprus

The games will give Cyprus greater insight into how other teams – such as the Women’s World Cup runners-up – are organised. Moreover, the quality of the opposition will help extract the potential in their own players and stir their own ambitions. The overriding priority, however, is to increase the number of players. “If we can manage to keep girls playing the game then the development will come – but that takes time,” Ppekri said. “Before we started our youth work, there were only 200 women and girls at most playing football. Now we’ve introduced U-11, U-14 and U-17 youth leagues. If we can keep these leagues and further expand them, we’ll have a good foundation to work with. What can you do with just 200 women and girls who play the game? Our first objective is to increase participation and then we’ll try to improve the quality. “We’ve already more than doubled that number now and we’ve got about 450 players. Unfortunately they weren’t able to play last year due to the pandemic. I’m sure more girls would play. A lot of them stopped playing football, and stopped doing sport altogether. But they’re coming back. I don’t think they’ll just stay sitting on the sofa,” concluded the 30-year-old with a laugh.

Images courtesy of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) the Luxembourg Football Association (FLF)