Tuesday 22 January 2019, 12:32

Panamanian league progressing as it plots for the future

  • Second staging of women’s league a success for FEPAFUT

  • 16 teams took part, contesting 69 games

  • FIFA Forward Development Programme key to the league’s expansion

Improved competitiveness and the emergence of new talents were the hallmarks of the second edition of Panamanian Women's Football League, which was won by CD Universitario for the first time.

The Panamanian Football Federation (FEPAFUT) was chosen by FIFA as part of its Forward Programme to implement a pilot plan aimed at increasing the participation of women in football from the lower age categories, with the Women's League being one of the areas in need of strengthening.

FIFA Forward is built to provide 360-degree, tailor-made support for football development in all 211 member associations across the six confederations. It is based on three principles: more investment, more impact and more oversight. The aim of the programme is to improve the way football is developed across the globe so that it can reach its potential in every single country, and so that everyone that wants to take part can do so without barriers.

“As a federation, we’re satisfied with the results achieved during the second staging of league,” said FEPAFUT General Secretary Eduardo Vaccaro.

“The federation believes that women’s football still has the potential to grow further, and so it will continue to play an active role in its quest to consolidate this,” he added.

He also explained that “the commitment to its development will continue both on and off the pitch, with the aim of increasing the participation of women and girls and generating greater competitiveness among participants, which in turn allows for better national teams."

The support of the FIFA Regional Office in Panama was very valuable for the federation. In this regard, the office’s Project Coordinator Derek Canavaggio said: “The FIFA Forward programme has strengthened the growth of women's football in Panama at all levels, not only with the implementation of national and regional tournaments, but with the staging of football festivals and development courses at grassroots level. The results of this tournament demonstrate the powerful impact that the Forward programme has had on the development of the women’s game in Panama.”

Did you know…

  • 16 teams took part in the tournament, up from eight in the inaugural edition.

  • It took place between 4 October and 19 December and featured a total of 69 games.

  • The format involved two groups of eight, with the top four in each section advancing to the knockout stages. The final was a single match.

  • The championship was played on Wednesdays and Thursdays through evening and night games. There were also fixtures during the day on Sundays.

  • In total, five different stadiums were used: the Maracana, Luis Ernesto 'Cascarita' Tapia, Agustin 'Muquita' Sanchez, Los Milagros and Armando Dely Valdes.

  • The final was broadcast on free-to-air television (Channel 4 RPC).

Pulsating denouement

CD Universitario were crowned 2018 champions after prevailing 6-1 in the final against SD Atletico Nacional, winners of the inaugural edition.

Raiza Gutierrez’s side ended the campaign with a perfect record, winning all 12 of their fixtures with 65 goals scored and just 13 conceded.

Once again, the championship’s outstanding player was Universitario’s Erika Hernandez, who top-scored with 22 goals, a feat she also managed in 2017 with 35 strikes.

Signs of progress

After just two editions of the league, the positive effects are already being felt in the national teams. The senior women’s team finished fourth in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship 2018 to secure an intercontinental play-off berth for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.

And while they ultimately lost that showdown with Argentina, it is clear that the foundations are in place for the team to aspire to a maiden appearance at a Women’s World Cup.

As part of its ongoing quest to consolidate women’s football in general, FEPAFUT is overseeing the implementation of two tournaments in 2019: the Opening (Apertura) and Closing (Clausura) League Championships.

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