Friday 20 April 2018, 07:29

Shaping the future of the women’s game in Asia 

  • ​First FIFA-AFC Conference for Women's Football held in Jordan

  • Figures from Asia meet in Amman to discuss game's development

  • Ideas, experiences shared from different regions to grow understanding

The FIFA-AFC Conference for Women’s Football – a unique event featuring General Secretaries and Heads of Women’s Football from 38 of the Member Associations within the AFC – proved to be a hotbed of ideas for the development of women’s football in Asia.

The first of its kind, the three-day meeting coincided with the final stages of the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in the Jordanian capital Amman. Women's football managers from Asian Member Associations were led through an opening day built around support, motivation and leadership, before General Secretaries and committee members joined for the final two days.

Prince Ali bin Hussein, President of the Jordanian Football Association, opened the conference by expressing his happiness that so many leaders from the women’s game had come together. He also expressed his hope that the Women’s Asian Cup, taking place in West Asia for the first time, could act as inspiration for all to achieve greater things in the near future.

Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer highlighted the importance of having a clear plan in place, outlining the five components of the governing body’s women’s football strategy, namely: growth and development; showcasing the game (competitions); communication and commercialisation; governance and leadership, and education and empowerment.

"Our role at FIFA is to provide the expertise and resources to support you in the work you do to drive women’s football development," she explained. "FIFA’s strategy is designed to address the diverse needs of our member associations and we stand ready to support you in achieving your objectives for women’s football.”

FIFA Council Member Mahfuza Akhter Kiron expressed gratitude to the participants for their hard work in the face of many challenges, saying: "Thank you all for your dedicated work towards women’s football development in Asia. Despite the difficulties, we have improved a great deal - but there is still a lot of work to be done to reach greater heights."

Sharing ideas Following the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Jordan 2016, Samar Nassar, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, discussed hosting the tournament, their focus on its legacy on and off the pitch and developing views on women’s football in Jordan. She also provided concrete examples of the Jordan FA’s collaboration with FIFA and other external partners to support the growth of women’s football.

Discussions looking at the challenges faced by women's football in South-East Asia, shared some of the positive trends they have seen in the region. Hussain Jawaz, General Secretary of the Maldives Football Association has increased the number of women working in the administration, revealing “50 per cent of employees working in the various departments of Football Association are women”. This has resulted in a significant increase in the efficiency of the administration and the quantity and quality of activities for women’s football.

The panel also featured AFC Women’s Football Committee Chairwoman Moya Dodd, alongside representatives from Laos and the Philippines. The latter's national side were competing at their first Women's Asian Cup for 15 years, with General Secretary Edwin Gastanes highlighted the recent surge of interest in women’s football. “Volleyball is the most popular participation sport amongst girls," he said, "but in the past few years, football has been on the rise, which has prompted the Philippines Federation to set up its first official league”.

As well as collectively agreeing a focus on schools and grassroots, motivating clubs and developing coaches, referees and administrators were key to future strategies, Dodd stressed the importance of increasing the number of teams taking part in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and in local championships. When asked what the turning point for women’s football in Australia was, she felt the introduction of the national women’s league has been fundamental to the increasingly strong performance of the national team.

Achieving goals "This was a great opportunity for us to acquire expertise from different countries," Sapna Rani, Head of Women’s Football at the All India Football Federation, declared as the conference drew to a close. "We shared opinions and working methods. Exchanging ideas was really beneficial and each of us will take ideas from the others and use them in the activities of the local football federations."

"It was good that we took part in this conference – we renewed contact with many old friends while meeting new leaders of women’s football," said Betty Wong, Head of Women’s Football at the Hong Kong Football Association. "This encouraged the atmosphere of sharing opinions. All the sessions and discussions were important to me but what was presented regarding governance was completely new and will help things to improve."