Monday 31 July 2023, 03:00

Rodolfo Villalobos hails the promotion and development of women’s football in Costa Rica

  • The President of the Costa Rican Football Association puts Costa Rica’s performance in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ into perspective

  • Villalobos underlines the milestones achieved, the investments made and the next steps to be taken in women’s football

  • “We want to be among the best. That’s our goal,” he said to

After losing to powerhouses Spain (0-3) and Japan (0-2), Costa Rica missed out on a chance to reach the round-of-16 stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ with one match left to play. Rodolfo Villalobos, President of the Costa Rican Football Association (FCRF), has put his team’s performance into perspective with confidence.

“There are people who are result-oriented, but as the head of our association’s working group, it’s important for me to explain that qualifying for a World Cup is already an achievement in itself and goes beyond the result. I would ask you to appreciate what it means to simply be here at this tournament for our country, for women’s football and for growing the game,” said Villalobos to, speaking from Auckland.

“Having made it here means that we have done a number of things well, despite the fact that in Costa Rica, much like in other places, the women’s national team are held to the same standards as the men’s team, even though their circumstances and pace of development differ. We’re growing and how we’ve been promoting and developing women’s football is key,” said the President of the FCRC, who is also a member of the FIFA Council.

Rodolfo Villalobos President of Costa Rica Football visits the team base camp for Costa Rica

He added: “The number of women playing football in our country nowadays is growing, from an ever-younger age. Hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014 already saw a significant increase, but organising the U-20 tournament last year resulted in an even bigger change, expanding our pool of female players. For them to see their favourite players in the FIFA Women’s World Cup is priceless.”

He also highlights the investment in human resources and infrastructure in the country. “Since 2015, we’ve been improving the working conditions of our female players, increasing the number of coaching staff and ensuring that there is a dedicated group for each team.”

With respect to infrastructure, Villalobos referred to “our introduction last year of a natural turf pitch built exclusively for women’s football. It’s a FIFA Forward-funded project and it’s part of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup legacy.”

But there’s more... “This year, we opened a building exclusively for the women’s youth teams, thanks to FIFA Forward funding and the profits generated from the U‑20 Women’s World Cup. It will have classrooms, dressing rooms, bedrooms, and offices for the coaching staff, medical consultants and massage therapists. This will also facilitate the training camps with players from other parts of the country.”

Villalobos said that this was a key project. “In 2018, we built a similar building for youth male players, and we felt that for women’s football, we needed to create similar conditions and that is why we built both the pitch and the building. If we include the beach soccer dressing rooms, which are part of the same project, the investment adds up to USD 1.6 million.”

Villalobos is conscious that further challenges lie ahead: “We must take the big step of professionalising the national women’s league. For this reason, we are starting off with club licensing, despite the teams having improved in many respects. Our aim is to develop a competitive women’s league consisting of players whose primary job is to play football. We hope to be able to count on the support of both our sponsors and fans.

The region is spurring us on,” said Villalobos. “In the Concacaf region, there are some strong contenders, so we have to keep up. The USA and Canada are powerhouses, Haiti and Jamaica are having a good tournament, Panama are tournament debutantes, and then there are associations like Mexico with a solid professional league and others from the rest of the Central American Football Union, who’ve also invested heavily in this.”

Costa Rica fans show their support during the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Costa Rica will say farewell to the tournament with their match against Zambia. Villalobos’s vision is clear. “Some tournaments are for participating and others for competing. For example, we participated in the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014. It helped us gain experience.

"Last year, we came to the U-20 Women’s World Cup to compete. Our team for the 2023 tournament also trained to compete, taking part in high-level warm-up matches thanks to FIFA funds. We knew we were facing a difficult group: we lost against Spain, a strong favourite, in my opinion, and Japan, who re years ahead of us. But our players have already changed their mentality somewhat. That’s also a way of growing.”

Villalobos looks to the future with optimism. “Our football has changed substantially compared to what it was at the 2015 tournament in Canada, and we hope that it will be even better in four years’ time. Each international competition encounter will help our footballers to gain experience and improve. We want to be among the best. That’s our goal.”