Trying to bring women's football to parts of the world trying to develop the game in general can be a challenge. Doing it in a country that is over twice the size of Germany yet has only a 40th of the population and 150th the GDP makes it even more difficult. But the Head of Women's Football for the Namibia Football Association, Jackey Gertze, has been willing to tackle the mammoth task head-on, and she has recently been getting some help at the first Female Leadership Development Programme and at a women's football coaching course in Windhoek at the end of February.
“[The coaching course] is something that we really needed,” Gertze told FIFA.com. “The game of woman's football is growing here, so there is an influx of new coaches and there is a change-over of coaches. When we requested this course we wanted to make sure that we keep growing the women's game, which is always our underlining motivation - not only to increase the numbers playing but also to improve our knowledge of how to help them play better."
Along with helping coaches learn the latest techniques, Gertze says there was an extra boost from having coaching veterans like former England manager Hope Powell and Namibia women’s national coach Jacqui Shipanga in attendance. To have a highly qualified instructor like Hope there is very motivating for everyone. Football is not a static game. It is scientific. There are lots of new things coming up, and Hope is able to empower our coaches with these.”
Focus on women's football
A former national team player herself, Gertze has put her heart and soul into developing the game in her home country. Previously a teacher, she was approached by the football association for a plan to grow women's football, and she was nominated for a seat on the NFA executive last year. One of the achievements she is proudest of is the Galz and Goals program, which was introduced to increase the empowerment of young girls in Namibia. “They join football structures at nine, and we have clearly defined goals promoting a healthy lifestyle. We integrate HIV education and life skills into the teaching.”
Her success in football has Gertze ambitious about seeing an increase in women in leadership roles throughout the sport, and she is about to conclude the ambitious Female Leadership Development Programme, which FIFA helps to organise. “The program has shown me how I can be creative and how I can become a better leader. Areas such as development and other key principles in women's football are integrated in the program. If I share what I have learned there with others in Namibia, it will accelerate the development of woman's football in our country.”
But even though Gertze has been in the forefront of development of the women's game in Namibia, she believes her job is far from over. “I would like to see many more women in leadership roles throughout the beautiful game. On a personal level, I would like to be more involved in the policy-making of football. At the moment, I am spending a lot of my time with the actual implementation of things, rather than overseeing strategy and planning.”
Seeing real results
As Namibia is such a vast country with its own economic challenges, it would be impossible to bring all interested coaches to one centralised venue, so the next best thing is for selected coaches to participate in courses. They, in turn, then go back to their regions and share their newly acquired knowledge.
It is not only in terms of coaching that the vastness of the country is a challenge to football development however. A recent expansion of the domestic women's league has decided to move players instead of clubs. “We have started a Super League, and it is going well. But distances in the country make it impossible to have a Namibian-wide league. So we identify players throughout the country and then register them with clubs in the Super League, which are in the Windhoek region and players then travel to the capital for their matches. They come from towns as far as Oshakati, on the border with Angola in the north, as well as from Karasburg, close to the South African border in the south.”
Namibia held the CAF African Women's Championships in 2014 and the hosts secured a morale-boosting victory against Zambia. The Super League has built on that success says Gertze. “It is the most popular and high-profile women's sporting league in the country and there have been increases in attendance.”