International Women's Day

Inspiring figures blazing a trail

Mariana de Almeida
  • We look at some of our interviews to mark International Women’s Day 2021
  • FIFA.com has spoken to numerous women in football
  • Read the messages from inspiring individuals

In honour of International Women's Day 2021 on 8 March, FIFA.com would like to take this opportunity to emphasise FIFA's commitment to combating gender discrimination. With the FIFA Women’s Football Strategy, FIFA is charting the course on how it intends to work with all stakeholders and take concrete steps to take women's football to the next level in order to make football a sport for all.

FIFA is pleased to observe the rise of women's football and women in the sport in recent years. Girls and women should continue to be given the support they need to allow women's football to keep growing and to fully develop its untapped potential. In doing so, it helps to look to women who have done or are doing great things for women's football and the sport, and give them a voice to inspire others and serve as role models. With that in mind, we are highlighting some of our interviews with major figures from the world of women's football.

Kathryn Nesbitt: First woman to be named MLS Assistant Referee of the Year

"Everyone has their own path. I started as a kid as a summer job, and that kept me involved in soccer and eventually kept me involved in sports. I really liked staying active. It can be competitive in its own sense as well, so to have those opportunities to strive to be the best at something in kind of an athletic form was great for me, so that’s really what pushed me to keep moving forward with it."

Andrea Gotsch: Football and music – a perfect duet

"I think I sometimes find it easier in football than in music to truly and completely switch off and simply focus on the moment at hand – the match, the ball, the team, the opponent, us and our physical activity. I occasionally manage to block all other thoughts from my mind and get completely immersed in the music during a concert, but I generally just sit in my seat and hardly move. The fresh air and the ability to completely let loose [on a football pitch] does me so much good. On the one hand it’s very similar to the concert experience, but on the other hand it’s the total opposite – somewhere I can really let go and relax."

Sam Mewis: "The Tower of Power"and USA’s Female Player of the Year

“We were getting rings presented for winning the championship and, as the announcer got to me, he just pulled the name out of nowhere: “The Tower of Power... Sam Mewis!” We all just looked at each other and laughed. It was so funny, and such a good nickname, that it stuck. And I like it. I’ve definitely adopted it now!”

Deyna Castellanos and Lele Pons reveal stories behind life on global stage

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Deyna Castellanos and Lele Pons reveal stories behind life on global stage

Mary Phillip: Paving the way as a female coach of a men’s team

"I’ll be seen as a role model for someone who wants to get involved in football and coach a men’s side, but it really depends on how far you want to go. Working at Peckham Town is voluntary work and that is fantastic. You put a lot of your time – and sometimes your money – into it, so that you can help it grow. If other opportunities opened up for me that would be amazing, but they would have to be right for myself and my family. You have to start somewhere and obviously you can start at grassroots level and go all the way through to a professional side. For me it’s grassroots for now. Peckham Town is very close to my heart. Working with the team and seeing them progress over the last couple of years, especially winning the London FA Senior Trophy for the first time last year, was an amazing achievement, and not only for myself. It’s a line to mark where you can go and how women can progress in the game as well.”

In our new Podcast FIFA-PlayOn, we have already had the pleasure of welcoming Carli Lloyd, Asisat Oshoala and Deyna Castellanos, among others, as guests on the show. You can find the link to the podcast below. Feel free to listen in.

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Listen to the FIFA PlayOn Podcast

Mariana de Almeida was one of the first female referees to be selected to officiate at a FIFA Club World Cup™

"On a personal level, I see it as recognition of my career and another nice vote of confidence in me and my work – all within the context of seeing more and more female referees called up for men's tournaments. That wasn’t happening when I started out, so hopefully it’ll encourage more girls and women to take up refereeing.”

Tona Is: The first foreign female coach in Mexico’s Liga MX Femenil

"I don't feel pressure beyond that which I put on myself to achieve certain goals. I’ve been fortunate to be a pioneer with many things in Spain, and so I’ll continue to be a pioneer outside Spain. In the end, it's about paving the way for other colleagues. I'm trying to help Mexican football and assist other foreign women coaches to follow me down this path I’ve laid."

Antje Hagel: Pioneer in tackling sexism in fan culture

"I come from the women’s movement of the 1980s and have been influenced by that. I was only introduced to football at the age of 30 and it was clear to me that if I wanted to stick with it, I needed to do something. The sexism was so obvious, even in the early 1990s, that it was clear that it could not continue. There was no specific reason apart from the considerable attention paid to it."

Natalia Lara: The "Voice of Brazil"

"I used to love Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo ‘Fenômeno’, Ronaldinho Gaucho. I was a striker – I loved scoring goals. My big dream was to become a footballer. When that didn’t work out, I wanted to work in sport in some way, but you’d only see men working in these positions. But I believed I could make it happen, I went after it and I realised, ‘Yes, I can do this’. I’m really happy I managed it because sport involves such passion and once you work in it, you don’t want to do anything else."

Millie Bright: Unpretentious, confident and world class

"I didn’t really play football until I was nine, and it’s not all that long ago I was playing part-time and nowhere near the level I’m at now. I always like to think about where I came from and what it’s taken to get here, and I feel the experiences I had when I was younger have helped mould me into the player I am now. Things have changed a lot for the better too. It really wasn’t clear to me when I started out that I could make a career out of football, whereas girls can now see that anything is possible if you have the talent and work hard enough. Each generation of women’s players has a responsibility to keep on growing the game and making things easier for the generation that follows, and I think we’re doing a good job of that right now."

Katty Martinez: On the way to becoming a pioneer in women’s football

"A dream of mine is to become a role model for my country. I would love to be able to represent it in the best possible way. That’s what I aspire to. I learn a lot every time I get called up to the national team. Maribel is very good about giving advice, and she’s given me a lot of useful pointers.”

This article is part of our series on women's football and women in football to mark International Women's Day 2021. To find out more about FIFA's Women's Football Strategy and development programmes, and to read other articles like this, click here.

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