- The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) has unveiled its strategy for 2021-2025
- The focus is on youth football, club licences and national competitions
- FIFA.com hears from key stakeholders about the plan
The future looks bright for women’s football in Argentina. Following on from the national team’s appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ and the plans made for the creation of a professional premier league, the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) has just presented its Integrated Strategy for 2021-2025, an ambitious five-year plan centred on the country’s clubs.
“It’s a project we’ve been working on for some time, in line with FIFA’s philosophy of developing the game at a national level and the importance that the president of the AFA is giving to this,” Jorge Barrios, the chairperson of the AFA’s Women’s Football Committee, told FIFA.com.
Barrios said he believed that unveiling the strategy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic provides a clear message: “We need to take steps to ensure that clubs invest more in women’s football and give it the visibility it needs to keep on growing. The pandemic has delayed things but we’ve never stopped thinking about how to promote the women’s game.”
- Women’s Primera A (premier league) clubs to have at least 12 players on professional contracts.
- They must also have an U-19 reserve team.
- Approval of the Copa Federal, a national cup competition. The finals of the competition will feature the same number of teams from the Metropolitan (Buenos Aires) Preliminary Phase and the Regional Preliminary Phase.
- Inception of the Supercopa Femenina, an annual match between the Primera A and Copa Federal champions.
- Women’s Primera A clubs to have an U-16 team.
- They must also hold the AFA’s National Licences certificate.
- Clubs competing in the amateur second and third tiers (Torneos de Ascenso) to have an U-19 reserve team.
- Women’s Primera A clubs to have at least 15 players on professional contracts.
- They must also have an U-14 team.
- Clubs competing in the Torneos de Ascenso must have an U-16 team.
- These clubs must also hold the AFA’s National Licences certificate.
- Clubs competing in the Torneos de Ascenso must have an U-14 team.
In Barrios’ view, the best way to increase the pool of players is to work from the top down: “We can’t start from the bottom because clubs don’t have girls playing football at the moment, but we can start at the top and work our way down gradually, giving them time so that they can prepare themselves and feed into the system.”
Club licences and the creation of national tournaments are also key objectives, as he went on to explain “The Copa Federal was scheduled to start this year but we had to cancel it. The idea is to enable clubs in the interior to attract players and to give them more visibility, so people can see what they do.”
Though aware of the challenges that lie ahead, Barrios is optimistic. “Financially it’s not easy for anyone to travel around, but we’ll find a way. The idea is for every club in the country to play women’s football competitively.”
A director’s view
Maira Villagra is the director of women’s football at Lanus, who have spent the last two seasons in the Women’s Primera A. A club with a proud record in men’s football, Lanus are famed for their development and community work.
“In footballing terms, it will allow us to develop in a general, professional and competitive sense,” she told FIFA.com. “South America is a continent that lives and breathes football and that exports its talents too. This is something that needs to be reflected in women’s football as well.”
Villagra added that the project “opens the pitch up to everyone” and pointed to two key aspects: “There are currently 22 teams in Primera B and 16 in Primera C. Putting a short, medium and long-term plan to them and encouraging them to invest in women’s football and develop young players is a challenge in itself. The same goes for the leagues in the interior of the country. There’s a lot of potential that needs to be seen and the Copa Federal is a chance to make that happen.
“I’m also excited about the licence system,” she continued. “It will improve the way in clubs function and are run and will enable investment in infrastructure and better training facilities, among other things. Women’s footballers have a right to enjoy the best conditions when they work.”
Villagra went on to say that she believes more and more players will develop a better understanding of the game and will play it better: “That’s what we have to aim for. The players will benefit and the standard of competitions and all the national teams will also improve.”
A boost for La Albiceleste
Argentina’s national women’s team coach Carlos Borrello, who has taken the side to three FIFA Women’s World Cup competitions, was in complete agreement with that view. “It’s a great initiative for helping girls to develop their game. Putting it into practice will be a massive step for us,” he told FIFA.com.
“If we give clubs in the interior more competitions to play in, then more players will stay with them, which will force the Buenos Aires clubs to do more to develop their youth set-ups.” he added. “This will make them better players, raise the standard of competitions and help us to spot talented players and keep them in the game.”
Like everyone else, Borrello has no idea when the strategy will begin to yield results. He is sure of one thing, however: “This will encourage and help lots of girls and women playing the game today to have bigger and better expectations, which is where this strategy can have even more of a direct impact already.”
The next step
Aside from the plan, Barrios, Villagra and Borrello were all agreed on the importance of girls taking up the game sooner rather than later.
“The ideal thing would be to develop a strategy based on grassroots football so we can get girls playing in schools, football academies and local and municipal clubs,” said Barrios. “That’s going to take time though.”
Borrello said he had been trying to make this happen for years but that it has not been easy: “It’s a cultural change, but it seems like we’re heading in the right direction now.”
Villagra, who also hopes the issue of training compensation can be settled one day, added: “We have to give young girls and teenage girls the opportunity to find out that this might just be a career for them in the future. We need national legislation to support the women’s football revolution.”