Europe’s smaller national football associations are aiming to progressively develop women’s football and UEFA’s new Together #WePlayStrong campaign is set to help them achieve their goals in the long-run.
In an effort to get more women and girls involved in the game, a football development workshop in the capital of Kosovo brought the European body together with the associations of low-quality nations.
Cyprus, the Faroe Islands, Gibralltar, Luxembourg, Malta and San Marino were all involved to discuss the challenges faced by smaller FAs in promotion and development within women’s football.
Within this workshop, each association shared its work and experience in establishing women’s programmes and domestic competition formats, while showing how they used funding from the Women’s Football Development Programme to good use.
UEFA’s new campaign is aimed at changing attitudes towards women’s football while increasing participation, especially among impressionable young girls.
Important issues to resolve included a lack of media exposure and cultural barriers, meaning that development has been slow or often stagnant in recent years. The #WePlayStrong campaign was highlighted as a priority by UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin in their attempts at changing the image of women’s football.
Associations expressed their concern at a lack of opportunity for their women’s national teams to play international fixtures if they failed to qualify for major tournaments. The better sides regularly face each other in friendly competitions but there is rarely much in place for lower-quality team to also compete.
More friendly matches on a yearly basis, coupled with small friendly-tournaments are seen as the way forward to help create match-practice opportunities whilst developing players’ skill level on the international stage.
Generating the resources to be able to recruit dedicated full-time staff working on women’s football was also highlighted as a major priority in the years to come, as it will ensure that more time is spent developing the sport itself in different areas.
Figures from the nations which took part in the workshop were involved in this and had their say on the insight they received.
Kosovo’s general secretary Eroll Salihu said, “One of the FFK’s priorities is to increase the participation of women and young girls in football. To raise awareness in schools, with the aim of recruiting talented young girls for organised football.”
Faroe Islands’ technical director, Pætur Smith Clementsen, said: “We gained an insight into how things are done in countries with similar preconditions as ourselves. Then we thought: ‘If they can do it, so can we.'”
Eleni Tymviou, part of Cyprus’ women’s football department said: “The opportunity that we had to work together will help us to make a new beginning, and organise new actions in the future.”
These comments are encouraging and show that the foundations have been put in place for women’s football to continue developing in future, not only for the higher-quality nations but also those who don’t get much recognition at present.