Australia’s next generation of female footballers are set to benefit from FIFA’s first-ever Goal Project dedicated purely to women’s football.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) received FIFA Goal Project Funding of US$500,000 (AU$536,000) in March this year, allowing the Member Association to deliver a national women and girls football development program.

The money will assist in promoting and developing women’s and girls football at grassroots level around the country.

“Through this funding we aim to increase the number of girls and women playing football in Australia and also improve the elite player pathway to ensure the continued success of our women’s national team,” said the FFA’s Head of Community and Women’s Football Emma Highwood at this week’s local media launch in Sydney.

“With the greater number of women and girls playing football coupled with an improvement in the expertise of the coaches at all levels of the talented player pathway, we believe that we will provide technically better players and coaches to our national teams for years to come.”

What we need is more projects dedicated to women, all over the world. We will do everything we can to promote these initiatives.

FIFA Director of Member Associations and Development Thierry Regenass says the funding is evidence of the world governing bodies growing support for women’s football. “It is by setting examples such as this project that women’s football will grow even more,” Regenass said. “We are very satisfied and we congratulate the FFA for their commitment to the women’s game.

“As the football governing body, we also always need to look at what still needs to be done, and what we need is more projects dedicated to women, all over the world. We will do everything we can to promote these initiatives.”

The FFA says the funding will allow development officers to be employed nationwide, and also help establish a female coaches mentor program that will see an increase in the number of accredited coaches with advanced qualifications.

Nine development officers have been appointed, including Australian past or present national team players Kathryn Gill, Brooke Spence, Renee Rollason and Lauren Colthorpe.

Women’s football is on a significant upswing in Australia with over 100,000 female participants, comprising around 20 per cent of the playing population. The national team, the Matildas, have reached the quarter-finals at the past two FIFA Women’s World Cups, and in 2010 were crowned Asian champions; the only Australian national team to achieve the feat.

Highwood says enhanced women’s technical development is a primary focus for the national body. “I’m very ambitious and believe in the next 10 years it’s possible to lift the World Cup in the women’s game if we do the right things and put the right structures in place,” said Highwood.

“Japan have been a great leader for us in Asia and the fact they won the World Cup is fantastic and it gives us the inspiration a team coming from Asia can do that. We’re developing a skill acquisition program which is all about developing technique at a young age group.”

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