MEXICO CITY - You can feel the passion for women's football in Concacaf as much off the field as on the field. It's a day before the celebration of International Women's Day ... And Mexico, a country that wears the jersey proudly, rich in culture and a great fan of the most popular sport in the world, is hosting the FIFA- Concacaf Women's Football Conference.
The atmosphere surrounding this historic women’s event, the first joint conference organized by FIFA and Concacaf within the region and hosted by the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), is contagious. You can feel the desire to see more players on the field ... and an interest in learning and exchanging the best strategies to develop and market the sport.
The conference, which featured welcome remarks by FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman, the President of the FMF, Yon de Luisa and Concacaf General Secretary, Philippe Moggio, provided an opportunity to review and discussFIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy.
Samoura highlighted the increase in women's representation at the FIFA Council, Committee and FIFA staff level, and spoke with excitement of the expectations of the FIFA Women's World Cup in France.
According to FIFA, since 1991, the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been played every four years. Throughout the past decades, the level of play has dramatically improved, media attention has increased exponentially, and the game has grown in popularity as confirmed by the fact that more than 750 million television viewers watched the 2015 edition of FIFA’s flagship women’s competition.
The tournament plays a key strategic role as part of FIFA’s efforts to double the number of female players to 60 million by 2026.
A United Force
The victories are the result of solid leadership, commitment and ongoing teamwork, key aspects highlighted by panelists at the three-day conference, which brought together FIFA officials, Concacaf and delegates from Member Associations.
While there has been significant progress since the first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, the future holds limitless opportunities.
"There is so much work to be done and there is so much opportunity," said General Secretary Moggio in his speech, highlighting the success of Confederation women's competitions in 2018, in which nearly two thousand players participated.
"It takes all of us – a collective regional force – to fully commit to advancing women's football. We must work together to move the needle and create the right strategic platforms that engages football leaders, governments, players, partners and fans in a movement that grows the women’s game in sustainable ways. We need everyone - a regional force - committed to developing women's football," added Moggio.
The conference also highlighted the importance for federations’ directors to take advantage of the potential of women's football and to continue to identify opportunities and implement programs to grow the game from grassroots to professional levels.
"We need to be game changers... Empower, influence and change the lives of girls and young women through football," said Concacaf Head of Women’s Football Karina LeBlanc, who presentedthe Confederation’s women’s platform, ConcacafW, which will be developed to educate and empower, grow the game, provide access and increase participation across the 41 Member Associations.
The Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) made its voice heard, after the historic victory of the Reggae Girlz in the 2018 Concacaf Women's Championship, where they became the first team in the Caribbean to qualify for a FIFA Women's World Cup. The JFF Women's Football Committee member, Elaine Walker-Brown, also inspired attendees to continue working alongside FIFA and Concacaf to grow the sport.
"You must love women's football, now with the support of FIFA and Concacaf, it's easier for our associations to develop the game ... The important thing is to continue developing young leaders in their countries," said Walker-Brown, adding that the World Cup qualification has changed the perception of women's football in their country.
Just as this Jamaican victory is creating a new era for women's football, the FIFA-Concacaf Women's Football Conference has demonstrated the support, opportunity and desire to grow the women’s game, exposing the challenges, including changing the perception of governing bodies and communities, as well as encouraging the creation of structures for sustainable and profitable development.
"This special football event helps us advance our focus and our efforts and demonstrate the opportunity we all have behind women's football," concluded Moggio.