MIAMI (March 8, 2014) -- With the hope of inspiring women to acquire a love for the beautiful game and to commemorate International Women’s Day, CONCACAF.com spoke with two prominent personalities: Sonia Bien-Aime, General Secretary of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA) and CONCACAF Executive Committee member, plus United States international Alex Morgan, the 2013 CONCACAF Women’s Player of the Year.
These women have played extraordinary roles in football on and off the field. Both have passion for the sport and envision a future full of opportunities for every girl in every country of the confederation.
In 2013, Bien-Aime was appointed as one of two female co-opted members of the FIFA Executive Committee, following Lydia Nsekera’s election to a full seat.
Her commitment to football is as discernible as it is resolute.
“It’s evident that CONCACAF is committed to improving women’s participation,” said Bien-Aime. “Everything that’s been implemented is gearing towards the direction of creating opportunities for every single girl who wants to play the game to have an opportunity to play.”
For CONCACAF women’s football, the next 18 months promise to be unforgettable.
The 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will be held in Costa Rica, March 15 – April 4.
Canada will welcome the international football community to its shores twice, when it hosts the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Additionally, the inaugural CONCACAF Girls Under-15 Championship is scheduled take place this summer.
“The growth of the women’s game has been remarkable and I’m certain that at the Women’s World Cup next year, more teams than ever will have a chance to win that tournament,” said Morgan, who won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. “Just since I played in the U-20 World Cup in 2008, the talent level of the younger players coming up through the ranks from not only the USA, but all the top countries, has been a really positive sign for women’s soccer”.
Photo: United States international Alex Morgan, the 2013 CONCACAF Women's Player of the Year
In order to continue building on the strengths of women’s sport, young girls need to be made aware that football presents genuine opportunity. They deserve to be inspired, so that they can envision a professional future that is robust with possibilities and career paths.
“We have to pave the way and provide opportunities for all girls in our region to be able to play,” said Bien-Aime, a former athlete that represented her country internationally in track and field, softball and as the captain of the women’s national football team. “First, we have to educate girls. We have to make them aware of every single opportunity within the football world.”
According to Bien-Aime, young women, parents and stakeholders should know there that are significant prospects in football beyond the playing field.
“It starts from grassroots and obviously CONCACAF has a very serious grassroots program,” expressed Bien Aime, Deputy Chair of the Women’s Technical Committee and member of the Women's Championship Committee at CONCACAF. “However, we have to make them know that outside of the playing arena, there are opportunities in the administrative sector.
“Education is the main key.”
In addition to promoting education, women’s football can become deeply rooted within a society by providing its most visible product – the national team – with appropriate resources and, as a result, exposure.
“Giving more attention and financial effort toward the country's respective female national teams is the best way to develop a culture of supporting women’s football in general throughout that country,” commented Morgan.
For Member Associations to gain from CONCACAF programs, Bien-Aime believes that they need to be thoughtful and strategic in the process of setting goals.
"We really have to focus on the importance of playing the sport, and recognize how the sport continues to grow globally and locally," said Bien-Aime. "If we are serious about improving the standards of our respective Member Associations, we will embrace all of the opportunities available for the development of administrators, coaches, referees and players, and this should no doubt serve as a motivational factor and encourage Member Associations to support and work along with CONCACAF."
Women’s sport is on an upward trajectory for long-term growth. Looking ahead, CONCACAF is energized by what the future holds as it plays a role in fortifying its members through educational and development courses.
“If I look at how far the game has come since the 1999 Women’s World Cup,” enthused Morgan, “I can be nothing but optimistic about the future.”
As football evolves in this region, Bien-Aime clearly wants to be part of the current changes at CONCACAF.
“There is no doubt that this is a new CONCACAF,” she concluded. “We still have miles to go, but the strides made over such a very short period of time is making us a better Confederation. We are supporting Member Associations with first-class and effective football administration for the years to come. Once all these initiatives are implemented, the talent will come.”