“Do you love football? Do you dream of training and developing your talents so that you can become a professional? No problem – we can help you turn those dreams into a reality!” This was the message emanating from the recent 'Live Your Goals' Festival held at Prince Mohammed Stadium in Al Zarqa, one of the cities hosting the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup Jordan 2016.
No fewer than 150 girls from schools all over the country were in attendance, some of whom had played football since a young age. Others, meanwhile, were about to kick a ball for the first time in their lives. All of them had one thing in common, however: a love for the beautiful game.
Organised by FIFA in cooperation with the Jordanian Football Association (JFA), the four-year Live Your Goals programme aims to raise awareness of football among young girls and women, encourage them to play the game, and increase the sport’s popularity. The ultimate objective is to build a group of promising young talents that can form the basis of the Jordanian women’s side after the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
What is it about football that attracts these budding players? “I think it’ll help me to be successful in life,” said 12-year-old Yasmeen Mohammed Azem. “I’ve tried other sports. I played basketball for a long time, but I chose football because that’s what I prefer to play. I hope to become the captain of our national team one day.”
I hope to become the captain of our national team one day.
Courtesy of 12 workshops set up within the stadium, where some of the U-17 World Cup matches have been held, participants had the chance to experience a proper training session, during which they worked on specific aspects such as shooting, passing, and speed. There were also small-sides games, which proved the perfect opportunity for the players to demonstrate their determination.
Also present at the event to watch their offspring were numerous proud parents. “It’s only my daughter’s second year of playing football,” said the mother of 10-year-old Joud Abou Ali, whose talent caught the eye of the coaches. “I would actually have preferred her to start sooner. Her character has improved. Football has taught her discipline and time management. At school, they’ve been encouraging her to continue.
“She dreams of playing for Jordan one day, and I hope she achieves that dream, maybe even more than she does. I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure she reaches that target. I want to see my daughter play in international matches, just like the ones that have been taking place in our country.”
Over the past few years, the mindset in Jordan has changed significantly: families now actively encourage their daughters to play sport in general, and football in particular. For those who have not yet come round to this point of view, how can they be persuaded? “The name of the programme speaks for itself,” said Abeer Rantisi, the head of women’s football at the JFA. “We advise all girls who love football to follow their dreams, and to never give up. We ask their families not to stop them from taking part, because football can truly improve their lives.”
The Festival in Al Zarqa may have drawn to a close, but for the young participants, the football journey continues. They will return home with new skills, new friends who share the same passion, wonderful memories to treasure and a dream they can set their sights on achieving.