Monday 26 February 2024, 15:35

FIFA funded competition boosting Argentinian women’s game

  • Copa Federal Femenina has received financial and logistic support from FIFA Forward Programme in its first three years

  • Competition has grown in size since first held in 2021, boosting spread of women’s game across Argentina

  • Boca Juniors won 2023 tournament, final phase of which was played in February 2024

Football is a unique passion in Argentina, one that is fed from every corner of the country, regardless of gender. The country’s Copa Federal Femenina is an example of that. Launched by the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) in 2021, the competition has now been up and running for three successful years, during which time it has had the financial and logistic support of the FIFA Forward Programme and has laid solid foundations for the future. The Copa Federal was founded with the idea of bringing together AFA-affiliated clubs competing in the Primera División A, B and C with those forming part of Argentinian football’s Consejo Federal, an AFA division. Its objectives include the creation of a federal framework for women’s football in Argentina; the promotion of the professional women’s game in the country, which currently only extends to the Primera A; increasing the number of 16-to-18-year-old female players; and supporting the development of Argentina’s national teams.

FIFA Forward provided USD 900,000 in funding for the tournament, though, as Luis Castro, the AFA’s head of development, explained, there has been more than just money on offer. “FIFA’s support went beyond that,” he said. “It would have been stupid on our part not to use all the tools that FIFA has made available to us. “We’re talking about sports-related, technical and expert assistance and even help with infrastructure. All that was necessary for the Copa Federal to come into being and to grow and develop, all within the framework of our Strategic Development Plan for the sport.”

FIFA’s Director of Member Federations of the Americas, Jair Bertoni, stressed the importance of helping member federations implement this type of competition.

“Women’s football is a priority objective in the strategy and vision of the FIFA President,” said Bertoni. “Through the Forward Program, we have contributed to the growth and development of football in a country passionate about the sport, enabling thousands of women to play at the highest level in an increasingly professional and competitive environment.

"We are pleased with the success of these three editions of the Women’s Federal Cup, and hope that this is just the first step towards an iconic competition within Argentine football.”

Positive signs

Boca Juniors won the 2023 tournament, which concluded with this month’s final phase and which saw 107 clubs and 2,645 players from the Consejo Federal taking part, well up on the respective 2021 and 2022 figures of 44 and 1,196 and 84 and 2,116. Elieth Artavia, a FIFA women’s football development consultant, attended the semi-finals and final, in which Boca Juniors beat San Lorenzo 2-1, and presented the trophy to the champions. “One of FIFA’s goals is to bring about the mass participation of women by providing access to the sport, which, as I’ve seen for myself here, the AFA is on the way to achieving with the help of this competition,” she said.

FIFA’s Women's Football Development Consultant Elieth Artavia handles the Copa Federal Femenina 2023 trophy to Boca Juniors captain

The Copa Federal, which fans could follow live on the AFA Development channel on YouTube, has been dominated to date by teams from Buenos Aires. Prior to Boca Juniors’ triumph, UAI de Urquiza won the 2021 competition and River Plate were victorious in 2022, though Consejo Federal side Belgrano de Córdoba struck a blow for provincial sides by reaching last year’s final. Castro is aware of the need to make the women’s game a national concern. “At the AFA, we’ve always looked at Argentina as a whole, and we knew there were variations in terms of technical ability. We understood, however, that the process of creating a federal framework had to include clubs from the Consejo Federal, to give them a real sense of how much they can still grow. If they weren’t competing at this level, clubs and players wouldn’t have that gauge, whereas they can now see that the gap has closed.”

Albiceleste benefits

Not only has the Copa Federal Femenina provided a means of growing the women’s game across the country, but it has also proved extremely useful in helping to unearth talented young players, allowing Argentina’s national youth teams to expand their selection processes. It is also worth pointing out that the inception of the Copa Federal Femenina in 2021 was followed by Argentina’s qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023, with 15 members of the 23-player squad having played in the domestic competition in at least one season. In the process, they have become role models for younger players.

Copa Federal infographic explaining participation growth

Looking to the future

The outlook is bright for the Copa Federal Femenina, which has generated enough revenue in its first three years to suggest that it is viable. As far as Luis Castro is concerned, competitions are key to the Strategic Plan’s objective of growing the women’s game. Hence the need for the tournament to continue. “We see each competition as a driver of development,” he explained. “And we’re not just developing footballers but the whole ecosystem around the event, such as coaching staff and directors. We see all of this as knowledge transfer with a positive impact on the sport. It’s the right way for it to keep on growing.”

FIFA Forward