Saturday 11 September 2021, 18:00

FIFA pledges South Sudan support, with focus on female youth

  • FIFA Secretay General and Chief of Women’s Football continue African tour

  • 73 per cent of the South Sudan population are under the age of 40

  • Youngest FIFA member association already making great strides

A FIFA delegation led by Secretary General Fatma Samoura continued their in-person meetings to build capacity and strengthen women’s football in the CEFACA region with a visit to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Received by the recently elected President of the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA), General Augustino Maduot Parek, the first stop was Juba National Stadium, which is currently being redeveloped with FIFA Forward funding support.

Upon completion, the plan is to provide teams with a full suite of facilities, while also allowing the country to host continental and international matches. The aim is for the project to be completed before the new year. The delegation then travelled to a friendly match between the South Sudanese National Women’s A and B teams. There they were met by Under-Secretary of the South Sudanese Ministry of Youth and Sport Peter Baptist, fans of the Bright Starlets, Head Coach of the team Shilene Booysen and several female match officials. Before the action got underway the FIFA Secretary General took to the pitch to speak to both teams, stating: “FIFA is here today to show you our support. We believe in women’s football and we believe in you the Bright Starlets. We want to lift women’s football up, and see your country’s outstanding athletes show the world the amazing talent in South Sudan.”

The following day the delegation met with South Sudanese Minister of Youth and Sports Dr. Albino Bol Dhieu. The Minister expressed government’s thanks to Fatma Samoura and Sarai Bareman for the continued investment in football and support FIFA has provided to the young nation. Speaking about the potential to develop the female game, the Minister highlighted his country’s youthful population, 73 per cent of which is under the age of 40, and how he sees football as the perfect way to engage with his nation’s youth. Fatma Samoura said: “This fact-finding mission to South Sudan is to allow FIFA to see first-hand how we can help to develop football and women’s football in particular. Football can yield positive changes and contribute to peace, and as we know, peace is priceless. Without peace there is no female empowerment and we want to empower girls and women of South Sudan through football.” The FIFA delegation reinforced their commitment to helping the ‘young child’ of the FIFA family, South Sudan, find its place among its many bigger and more developed brothers and sisters worldwide, through training programmes and expert support.

A grassroots football camp for young children was next on the agenda, with children and coaches taking part in training sessions on the basics of football, before a visit to the SSFA headquarters. At SSFA, Bareman met with its Women’s Football Committee and discussed ways FIFA can support the Federation in implementing its women’s football strategy. The unique cultural and geographical challenges facing women’s football in the East African country were also talked about, as was how working with schools could provide a means of overcoming these challenges. Bareman said: “Despite the challenges and infancy of the women’s game here in South Sudan, I am really impressed with the progress that has been made and also the commitment that has been shown by the SSFA leadership. There are many talented women who work tirelessly to promote and develop the female game.”

Capacity building, improvements to refereeing and developing more licensed coaches were central to talks with the EXCO. Discussions also covered health of players, management of competitions and how FIFA could best support and guide the young Federation. Fatma Samoura said: “Like any family, if you don’t pay attention to the little ones at the table the big ones will continue to grow strong while the little ones won’t. FIFA wants to see the SSFA grow, stand on its own feet and run, so it can become the champion of the family. We are by your side to make that happen.”