Friday 08 March 2019, 07:00

Signeul: We need to give girls the same opportunity

Finland head coach Anna Signeul
  • Finland coach Anna Signeul is part of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme

  • 57-year-old using International Women’s Day as opportunity to talk equal rights

  • Signeul: "Take responsibility for your own future"

8 March 2019 will mark the 108th International Women’s Day, with the hashtag this year being #BalanceforBetter. And what better occasion than to take a closer look at women’s football?

"Everyone would say that every day should be women’s day or an equal day," says Anna Signeul, coach of the Finland women’s team, to "But I think that sometimes it's just good to have a reminder that we take some things for granted in some countries. We always need to work on this to make society more equal. I think it's a good celebration."

Signeul first came to football as a youngster and like so many before her, she had to play with the boys as there were no specific girls’ teams.

"I was 11 years old already when I played in a women’s team," she explains. "I think I was quite good. When I was playing I got a lot of respect already. I didn't really understand and thought that there was no difference between boys and girls or men and women. I didn't feel that when I grew up and played football.

"I didn't realise until I was a bit older that it was not that easy for women or female sport getting the resources or publicity. Especially when I started as a coach for young players and the youth national teams."

Head Coach Anna Signeul, FIN 

The Swede has been lucky throughout her career, both on domestic and international level, to have plenty of support that she could count on. Yet despite that, she is well aware that there is a lot of work still to do in her home country to change people’s mindsets. And the best place to start is with the youngsters.

Take charge of your own life

"We need to give girls the same opportunity as boys to live their dreams and be the best football player in the world if they want. We need to give them resources, opportunities," says Signeul of what needs to be done to bring about change. "It would be an ideal society for me if all the boys and girls could live their dreams. It should be natural for girls if they want to play football and for boys if they want to dance.

"It is important that we raise the kids to believe society is equal and that we treat everyone the same. There is no gender that is superior over someone else. I want to support women, that’s why I am in this programme. I really cheer women on to do great things in other countries and I want to help them to get their daily lives better."

This is a perfect illustration of one of the many reasons why the affable Swede is acting as a mentor in the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme, which involves coaches and experienced training mentors pairing up. Not that she is reserving her advice and experience purely for her own mentee.

"What I always tell young people is the following: if you put your future in the hands of someone else it is all up to that person where you are going to end up. You need to take charge of your own life. And if you want something, you have to go and get it. Take responsibility for your own future and tell people what you want in live. If you don’t, people cannot help you. We women don’t do that. We don’t set out targets and we don’t dare to set brave targets. That is what we women should do more."

A few facts about Anna Signeul

  • Head coach of the Sweden U-16 and U-18 women’s teams (1996–2005)

  • Head coach of the Scotland women’s team (2005–2017)

  • Head coach of the Finland women’s team (since 2017)