Lasting legacy at the heart of New Zealand’s Girls and Women’s Month
New Zealand Football hosts celebration of the women’s game with Girls and Women’s Month
Focus on introducing new players to the game in line with Aotearoa United: Legacy Starts Now
New Zealand legend Wendy Sharpe opens festivities, national cup final concludes massive month
With the fast-looming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ now on the horizon, New Zealand’s annual Girls and Women’s Month has never been more significant. This year’s edition held over the past month comes on the back of the recent 500-day milestone ahead of Australia & New Zealand 2023.
Girls and Women’s Month is an opportunity for federations and clubs across Aotearoa New Zealand to engage more girls and women in football and futsal by offering access to a variety of activities – whether those opportunities are in playing, coaching, refereeing or in administration. The tagline ‘Play. Dream. Live.’ could barely be more apt.
Few are more passionate about growing the local game than former New Zealand national team icon Wendy Sharpe. These days the 51-cap former striker is playing a key role in developing future stars.
Sharpe, who held the goalscoring record for New Zealand until 2012, when it was surpassed by Amber Hearn, is now a coach in the small Bay of Plenty settlement of Katikati and was on hand to oversee one of the first events on the Girls and Women’s Month calendar for 2022.
“It’s all about promoting the game and encouraging girls to play and get out and have some fun,” Sharpe said.
The event in Katikati was particularly special for Sharpe who was assisted by her eldest daughter Chanelle, while twin granddaughters Ivy and Ella were among the 30-odd participants.
“To pass my knowledge and experiences onto the grandkids, all the kids really, it's very cool and if the twins don't play forever, it's just one of those things, but I'm hoping they will."
Another benefit to having a month dedicated to events for girls and women is the opportunity to connect both former and current Football Ferns with those young girls in the community hoping to emulate them.
Football Fern Rosie White has made several appearances at events across Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau throughout March, earning new admirers in the process - both girls and boys alike.
With 110 caps and counting, White said providing opportunities to play are one of the most important aspects for junior development and building player participation.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, that’s what’s so great about football, you can introduce it at any level,” said the three-time Women’s World Cup representative. “There aren’t any pre-requisite skills required with football, you can just kick a ball and have fun.”
For the kids on the ground, it was a fantastic experience to meet a professional and one of New Zealand’s leading footballers.
Student Hafsa Abdullahi explained that having a national team star taking them through their paces was an ideal introduction to football for her and her Mount Roskill Intermediate classmates.
“Lots of us are not playing football in clubs, but now we know how it feels to be at a football club,” Abdullahi said. “They have taught us new skills that can last a lifetime.”
Other events held during March included women’s only referee and coaching courses, football Fun Days and Have-a-Go sessions, with Girls and Women’s Month culminating in the Kate Sheppard Cup final at North Harbour Stadium on Sunday 27 March.
Girls and Women’s Month continues to be an effective way for New Zealand Football and its Federations to capture the imagination of young girls throughout the country.
For Sharpe, it’s an opportunity to get up close and personal with an event she missed out on by the narrowest of margins back in 1991.
Sharpe was crucial to New Zealand’s qualification after her winning goal against Australia helped secure the side’s place in China. However, upon returning to New Zealand following the May matches in Australia, Sharpe discovered she was pregnant with her first child, ruling her out of the squad for the final tournament in November.
“I think it's fantastic we have the World Cup in our backyard,” she said. “These opportunities don't come around very often so we've got to grab it and take it to the New Zealand public.
"The best players in the world are going to be on display and you won’t get the opportunity to be at the same field as them very often, in the same ground, in the same town. And if New Zealand can pull off some great results, it’s going to get New Zealand behind them even more.”
To receive information on how to apply for FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ tickets click here