Country holds its first U-15 women’s festival
FIFA providing support through its Women's Football Campaign
“We can go far as a team”
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was the setting for the country’s first U-15 women’s football festival at the start of April. Organised by the Ecuadorian Football Association (FEF) and Fundación de las Américas (FUDELA), the event was supported by FIFA through the Women’s Football Campaign, one of its eight women’s football development programmes. Among those attending were Alejandro Saenz, Deputy Minister for Physical Activity at the Ecuadorian Ministry of Sport; Elieth Artavia, a FIFA consultant specialising in women’s football; FUDELA President Veronica Escobar; and FEF Head of Women’s Football Bella Obando. In implementing the Women’s Football Campaign, FIFA aims to help member associations organise sporting events that encourage young women to play the sport in safe and welcoming environments. “It’s great to see activities promoting women’s football taking place in an age group that doesn’t have a regular tournament of its own,” said Elieth Artavia. “Once these festivals are over, the aim is to implement the League Development programme. I’ve also been impressed by the involvement of managers at a regional level, who can now come together and step up the promotion and organisation of more festivals in the future.”
There were lots of smiling faces and plenty of excitement in the air as 120 players – divided into seven teams – took part in what was a hugely successful event. Government representatives and FIFA consultants were united in highlighting the positive and vital role the sport can have in helping young people to develop and grow. “We can go far as a team,” commented Alejandro Saenz. “And as sportspeople, we know about empathy and sticking together and that it’s no good if we don’t work as a team. It gives us a lot of pleasure as Ecuador’s Ministry of Sport to be able to develop these ideas. It’s very pleasing to see these young girls and teenagers here.” “For me, women’s football is one of the best things there is,” said Helen Palacios, one of the players taking part in the festival. “My message to women is to get into the game so that we can all grow together.”
The event is yet another milestone for the FEF in its bid to develop women’s football, although it still has many challenges to overcome to achieve greater equality and higher participation levels in the sport. “We need to run even more targeted initiatives to bring about development, such as the organisation of tournaments at U-13 and U-10 level, etc,” added Artavia. “We also need to split the country up into regions and have local leaders supporting the programmes and organising positive actions so we can continue to develop women’s football to the maximum.” There is no doubt, however, that the U-15 women’s festival in Quito was a big step in the right direction and shows that the women’s game in Ecuador is growing in size and gaining greater recognition, in line with other South American countries.
“South America has taken some important steps by making its women’s first divisions professional concerns, all with the goal of offering women players the space they deserve,” continued Artavia.
“What we need to do now is ensure the leagues are sustainable and adapt the regulations to help make that happen. Another challenge is to create and invest in lower leagues so that we have sustainable processes. And we also need to train women’s football managers and administrators and give them the communication, business and financial skills they need, as well as the necessary qualifications.” The way forward has been mapped out. This festival is just one of several that have been held in Ecuador in recent times, which is why Artavia sees a bright, promising future for women’s football in the country.
“The FEF is an association that has started to prioritise the development of the women’s game in its various aspects, such as management, administration and organisation. This has all been achieved with Bella Obando, who is leading the way with a strategic plan that has clear objectives.”