Sunday 10 December 2023, 06:30

FIFA Secretary General praises 'inspiring' women’s national team achievement in Azerbaijan

  • Fatma Samoura congratulates Azeri women’s national team on historic UEFA Nations League success

  • Says it will “inspire more girls and women in Azerbaijan to start playing football”

  • FIFA Forward funding has revamped football infrastructure across the nation

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has praised the work the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) has done to give the country a thriving national women’s football team. Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup™ when it staged the third edition of the competition in 2012, and the AFFA has since built on that success to develop the women’s game in the country. Azerbaijan’s national women’s team were promoted to UEFA Women’s Nations League™ B with a match to spare of the competition’s inaugural campaign earlier this month, eventually finishing unbeaten on five wins and a draw to top Group C3 ahead of Montenegro, Cyprus and the Faroe Islands.

“First, I want to congratulate the Azerbaijan women’s team for winning promotion to League B of the UEFA Women’s Nations League, and to yourselves at the federation for all the wonderful work you have been doing to promote the growth of women’s football in Azerbaijan,” Ms Samoura told the audience at the Women’s Leadership Seminar in the capital, Baku, which she first visited in 2017 when the FIFA Executive Football Summit was staged there. “I am sure this will inspire more girls and women in Azerbaijan to start playing football and enjoy the many benefits which extend far beyond the pitch. Because football is more than just a sport – it is also a driving force for the empowerment of women.”

Ms Samoura was joined by Elkhan Mammadov, the former AFFA General Secretary who was appointed FIFA’s Regional Director Europe last year, in a meeting with AFFA President Rovnag Abdullayev where they discussed the many football development projects that have reshaped Azerbaijan’s football landscape. The Ganja City Stadium, the Sumqavyit City Stadium, and the Baku Olympic Stadium, which staged UEFA EURO 2020™ matches, were all revamped during the first two phases of the FIFA Forward programme, which supports all of FIFA’s 211 Member Associations with funding for football-related initiatives.

Forward 2.0 funds were also used to implement the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the Azerbaijan Premier League, while the AFFA has allocated money from the next phase of the programme for further renovation of the Ganja City facility.

“There is still a lot to do. Women deserve top class facilities and preparation, just like the men. At grass roots level, they need safe spaces where they can play and train, free from the threat of harassment and discrimination,” said the FIFA Secretary General, who participated in a grassroots festival at the Baku Olympic Stadium before attending the men’s Azerbaijan Premier League game between Zira and Araz Nakhchivan. “We also need to get more women involved in the men’s game. The whole of football benefits from greater representation of women at senior level because it can draw on many more valuable perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, and be as inclusive and diverse as possible worldwide. “Investing in football is a sign of commitment to the youth of the country, a commitment to education and respect for societal values. That is why I encourage you to continue growing the game and getting as many girls and women involved in playing football now. It will change their lives forever.”

Secretary General