Sunday 07 March 2021, 14:41

Bareman: Women will play vital role in football's future 

  • FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer talks to on International Women’s Day

  • Bareman is one of four women who sit on FIFA’s management board

  • Says lead up to 2023 Women's World Cup can be leveraged to accelerate momentum for the women’s game

Hailing from New Zealand, Sarai Bareman is FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer.

Prior to joining FIFA in her current role in 2016, Sarai was the sole female member of FIFA’s 2016 Reform Committee, where she advocated strongly for change within the organisation, playing a key role in calling for concrete requirements on women in leadership positions at FIFA and more resourcing for the women’s game.

Having worked previously at national association level as the CEO of the Samoan Football Federation as well as the Oceania Football Confederation, Sarai now leads the Women’s Football Division at FIFA, which works to further grow, develop and professionalise women’s football in line with FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and FIFA’s overall vision from 2020-2023.

‘Women will play a significant role in shaping and developing the future of football’

Speaking to on International Women’s Day, Bareman highlights the vital role that many women, including players, coaches, administrators and volunteers, right across the game continue to play to grow the sport.

“Meeting and speaking every day to women in football, I’m always inspired by their stories. Whether it’s a player, coach, volunteer or administrator, there are so many personalities and untold stories in the women’s game,” said Bareman.

“From women driving the development of women’s football in Asia, female referees breaking barriers or a ground-breaking women’s national team, I’m excited to play a role in helping to support and develop other women in football and to see more women play a significant role in shaping football in the future.

“Whilst challenges do remain as football emerges from the pandemic, I firmly believe there is a real opportunity for women’s football to become truly global over the next few years. I think the potential on and off the pitch is limitless.”

Bareman also talked about who inspires her, as well as some of the qualities and values she admires. “We’ve seen some great women leaders emerge out of this pandemic like Jacinda Ardern. Her ability to lead with a perfect mix of authenticity, empathy and authority really appeal to my own leadership values and the success of New Zealand during the pandemic has really come down to her leadership."

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaks at the first post cabinet meeting press conference of the new cabinet in Wellington, New Zealand, on Nov. 6, 2020

‘FIFA’s commitment to women’s football remains stronger than ever’

With FIFA announcing at France 2019 that it will double women’s football investment budget to $1 billion between 2019-2022, the impact of the pandemic has also presented significant challenges for the women’s game, affecting many leagues and member associations.

In order to support football from the financial impact of the pandemic, FIFA launched the COVID-19 Relief Plan, which included an additional USD 500,000 grant for all 211 member associations specifically for women’s football. Bareman highlighted the important impact of this and the opportunities that lie ahead as football begins to recover.

“I’ve said this before but whilst there have, and will continue to be very significant challenges facing women’s football as a result of the pandemic, FIFA has shown that its commitment to the women’s game is stronger than ever.

“I’m optimistic and see that there is a great opportunity now for the women’s game to grow even stronger, more popular and even bigger than before,” said Bareman.

“Next year, we’ll see India and Costa Rica host women’s youth tournaments, as well as qualification tournaments for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 getting underway. All of this will take place alongside the excitement and build-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which will also be a great platform to cross-promote and help showcase women’s football and to capitalise on that added interest in the international game.”

Carli Lloyd of the USA lifts the FIFA Women's World Cup Trophy

‘2023 will be the year that women’s football goes truly global’

Looking ahead to 2023, Bareman highlighted the importance and impact that the next FIFA Women’s World Cup™ will have on the women’s game, particularly when it comes to leaving a lasting legacy both on and off the pitch.

“Expanding from 24 to 32 teams is such a massive step. As well as giving more teams the chance to compete at the highest level, women’s football will reach more fans, more women and girls and more countries around the world. The impact and legacy of this cannot be underestimated and will go far beyond what just happens on the pitch in Australia and New Zealand."

In addition, Bareman emphasised the importance of leveraging the build-up to the event to boost participation, commercialisation and interest in the game. “There is something so exciting about the lead-up to a World Cup, the building anticipation and the buzz it can create at a global level is incredible. In women’s football I would encourage all our stakeholders to take advantage of this – this is our biggest opportunity to showcase our sport."

"Add to this, two hugely experienced and excited co-hosts in Australia and New Zealand and it’s easy to see the legacy potential from the tournament. 2023 will be the year that women’s football goes truly global!”

Speaking of her message on IWD, Sarai said:

“For me, every day is International Women’s Day. We shouldn’t wait for this day to celebrate our achievements, uplift each other and to strive for equality. I’m so lucky to be leading women’s football where these themes are at the core of our work. I would encourage all women to find reasons to celebrate success every day!”

This article is part of our series focused on women’s football, and women in football, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021. To find out more about FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy and Development Programmes, and to read more articles like this, click here.

Stephanie Catley of Australia and Rebekah Stott of New Zealand pose for photos during the announcement of Australia & New Zealand's Joint Bid to host the FIFA Women's 2023 World Cup