Monday 23 May 2022, 08:00

Guinea sows seeds of Championnes

  • FIFA delegation 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

  • Delegation met Yeo Moriba, ambassador of Guinean women's football and mother of Pogba brothers

Since March 2021, FIFA, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the NGO Plan International France have been collaborating in the fight against discriminatory attitudes and practices against women and girls, and to support them in their empowerment. The project in question is known as the Championnes programme. It is currently being implemented in Benin, Togo and Guinea, where a FIFA delegation is visiting from 23 to 29 May. The mission is to promote leadership among girls and gender equality through football in a safe environment, namely at school.

"It was high school that gave me the opportunity to play football," Yeo Moriba, mother of the Pogba brothers and ambassador of Guinean women's football, tells "I started playing football at a very young age on the street with my friends in the neighbourhood, but I soon ran into a major obstacle: the sport was monopolised by boys. There was no women's team in my time, and it was only my school that enabled me to join one when I was 13 or 14," says the former international. Unfortunately, things are not that different today. In Guinea, as in many West African countries, school remains, for lack of a better option, a privileged setting for many young girls passionate about football. The Championnes programme, however, offers 5390 girls and women aged 12 to 24 the opportunity to play football in refurbished and properly equipped facilities, which are harmoniously shared regardless of gender. "It's a beautiful project," adds Yeo Moriba, "especially since, from a sporting perspective, Guinea is not lacking in talent or ambition. So, yes, we must create the conditions for success. Unfortunately, there is a lack of facilities, equipment and staff to oversee and advance women's football in my country."

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that some of the Championnes programme participants will go on to become stars of the beautiful game. For now, though, the primary objective is for the girls to use the practice of football and the programme’s mixed gender training sessions to empower themselves and assert gender equality. Keep in mind that in Guinea, 54 per cent of girls are married before the age of 17 and 29 per cent do not go to school. Yeo Moriba’s children are all boys. And while her twins Mathias and Florentin have had decent careers as a footballer, his third son Paul is a global star who helped France to FIFA World Cup™ glory at Russia 2018. She stresses the important role of parents in the journeys of children, regardless of gender: "This role is essential. We need to accompany them, advise them, protect them, encourage them, push them and help them. Whether they succeed or not, you can never stop supporting your children. You have to give it your all.” While the main target of the Championnes programme is clearly young girls, parents, families and, more broadly, communities are also part of the project. Again, the aim is to raise awareness about gender-based inequalities and the importance of education for young girls.

"There are still too many young girls who still deny themselves access to football pitches," says Yeo Moriba before concluding: "I want to encourage them to get around these barriers. Don’t be discouraged – you have to believe it’s possible. Football is a vehicle for self-fulfilment."