Monday 17 July 2017, 09:37

Smoothing the path to the future

  • Graduates of FIFA and UEFA leadership programme meet in Amsterdam

  • More than 150 came together to develop the programme further

  • Meeting timed to coincide with kick-off of UEFA Women's EURO, which kicked off on 16 July

Last weekend, women were very much the centre of attention in Amsterdam, and not just because the UEFA Women’s EURO kicked off on Sunday some 50 kilometres away in Utrecht. As part of the overall context of the tournament, FIFA joined forces with UEFA to host a very special event on 15 and 16 July, entitled "UEFA/FIFA Women in Leadership – Taking a next step together". The aim was to celebrate more than 150 candidates who had successfully completed the programme to promote women in leadership positions at UEFA and FIFA.

FIFA's Women's Football Division yesterday met the FIFA graduates. There was a lot of passion, ambition & emotion in the room. Be inspired.

— #FIFAWWC (@FIFAWWC) July 16, 2017

Karina LeBlanc, former Canadian international goalkeeper and graduate of the FIFA Women’s Leadership Programme, explained in a recent interview with just how important projects of this kind are. "It helped me realise that I'm more than just a soccer player. It sounds like a simple term, but it’s huge. My head coach John Herdman said to me in 2013: 'If you think our purpose on this earth is to play soccer, then I failed you'. I’ll never forget that conversation. It made me wonder: What is my purpose?"

"I remember my first trip – I got to do a soccer camp for young girls in Honduras. Their reality was just what they saw – they don’t get to turn on the TV and see women playing soccer. They saw their mothers having kids. I remember talking to young girls at the age of 14 holding their babies," LeBlanc continued. "Going there and dropping a soccer ball and being like: 'Hey, that’s what I do for living because I dared to dream big. I dared to believe that I could do something crazy'. Things shifted and I thought: 'Maybe my purpose on this earth is not just kicking a ball. Maybe soccer prepared me for something bigger'."

The event in Amsterdam was organised to herald the next step and develop a new and improved version of the FIFA Leadership Programme for the promotion of women, and to adapt it to the needs of the member associations and confederations – with the help of the various graduates.

This included five of the six female members of the FIFA Council, who took part in an inspiring panel discussion where each discussed their own footballing background. They namely: Mahfuza Akhter Kiron (BAN), Lydia Nsekera (BDI), Sonia Bien Aime (TCA), Maria Sol Munoz (ECU) and Sandra Fruen (ASA).

"Participating in the UEFA Programme changed my live forever. I wouldn’t be here on this stage, I would have never been appointed to the position that I am in now if I'd not had the opportunity to take part in that programme," said Sarai Bareman, FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer, to the alumni. "The promise that I made to myself when I came to this role was that I would always have time for every woman that comes to me and wants to know how I got here. Every single one of you in here needs to have the same attitude. Because we are lucky."