Tuesday 31 May 2022, 08:00

Champions emerge in Guinea

  • A FIFA delegation recently visited Guinea as part of the Championnes project

  • Objective is to enable young girls to have a quality education in a safe environment with the help of football

  • In addition to Guinea, the project has also been implemented in Benin and Togo

Headlines like "Wydad - Champions of Africa" have been commonplace in the sports media over the last 24 hours. The Moroccan club has justifiably been feted for winning the CAF Champions League (2-0) yesterday at the expense of the Egypt’s Al Ahly, the defending champions and most successful team in the competition’s history. And while obviously a significant achievement, no less impressive has been the bravery of another group of ‘Championnes’ from Guinea. The Championnes in question are the participants in a programme of the same name, set up by FIFA, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the NGO Plan International France, who have been collaborating in the fight against discriminatory attitudes and practices against women and girls, and supporting them in their empowerment. In a country like Guinea, where 54 per cent of girls are married before the age of 17, and 29 per cent do not go to school, the stakes are as high as a Champions League final.

"The situation is this: girls are overlooked in certain practices, and in some communities they’re ignored. They don't decide for themselves, we decide for them," explained Alassane Camara, manager of the Championnes programme. "This project provides an opportunity for these girls to transform themselves and participate in their own personal development by enhancing their qualities, such as self-confidence." Specifically, the goal is to promote leadership among girls and gender equality through football in a safe environment, namely at school. From 23 to 30 May, a FIFA delegation visited the project in Guinea to measure the effects: "We could see with everyone involved, whether local authorities, families or players, that that project is having a real impact," said Celine Zigaul, FIFA Development Programme Manager, CAF and Caribbean. "We’d like to optimize the project in the future, even if its impact on the ground is already excellent,” she added.

The enthusiasm of the girls was very much in evidence. "The project brought me joy, by being a member of a football team and being able to express myself in public. It gave me a sense of what autonomy is," said Sila, one of the participants. Her team-mate, Kadiatou was in agreement, "I had the opportunity to enrol in this programme thanks to my college. I thought it would be good for me, and I was right! While the primary objective of the Championnes project is to empower young girls through football, ensuring gender equality is also an important goal. Thus, the training sessions are mixed. "It's important to advocate equality between women and men," says Noam, a young footballer. "In the past, men dominated football, but this project shows women that they can play it too." And not just play it but excel at it, as Yeo Moriba, mother of the Pogba brothers and ambassador of Guinean women's football, recently explained to FIFA.com: “Guinea is not lacking in talent or ambition. We just have to create the conditions for success.” And that is precisely what the Championnes programme is tasked with doing!