Thursday 17 August 2023, 14:00

Celebration and growth in focus at FIFA Women’s Football Convention

  • Second edition of the FIFA Women’s Football Convention opened in Sydney/Gadigal on Friday

  • Women’s football celebrated through a series of speeches, panel sessions and demonstrations

  • Day two will take place on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Final

An inspirational day one at the FIFA Women’s Football Convention in Sydney/Gadigal saw world football’s 211 Member Associations come together to hear wide-ranging presentations focussed on the overarching goal of growing women’s football. The two-day event was hosted by Carol Tshabalala and highlighted the five pillars of FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy: Develop and Grow, Showcase the Game, Communicate and Commercialise, Govern and Lead, and Educate and Empower. The assembled leaders, legends, coaches and administrators from all across the world were warmly welcomed to the International Convention Centre with traditional hospitality from indigenous representatives of both 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ host nations.

The Hon Anika Wells MP, Australian Minister for Sport opened proceedings thanking FIFA for bringing the Women’s World Cup Down Under and helping Australia to become a “football country”. FIFA President Gianni Infantino welcomed the assembled delegates addressing many aspects of a “transformational” World Cup, including the rapid on and-off-field growth at what has been a record-breaking edition of the tournament. Ahead of Sunday’s Final, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura thanked co-hosts Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, addressed the opportunity for legacy-related growth and concluded by officially declaring the second edition of the FIFA Women’s Football Convention open.

Pillar 1: Develop and Grow

The opening panel – ‘Building the Foundations’ – was moderated by Karina LeBlanc and featured Lowri Roberts (Wales), Bruce Djite (Australia), Tsholo Setlhoko (Botswana), Hem Kaur Sidhu (India) for an engaging discussion on building the game and the power of women’s football. “We need to invest more in the women’s game. We have the potential, we have the capacity. [Women’s football] is waiting to explode, and that is our call to action – invest more in women’s football.” Hem Kaur Sidhu “For us to go forward, for us to be able to develop the women’s game, we need to accept women. The leaders who are here today need to play an important part to ensure that women are supported and accepted. I believe that as women, we are mothers, and mothers play a critical part in the development of the game because the attributes of mothers are gatekeepers, community builders. Give us the opportunity so that we can play to our maximum potential.” Tsholo Setlhoko

Former Canada U-20 Head Coach and FIFA Legend Carmelina Moscato delivered a keynote address about her inspirational lifelong football journey and the joy of a new career as a coach. “I stand here with the overwhelming feeling that coaching is a gift and a privilege. It was natural for me, to teach, to connect, to share the passion of the game, to make people laugh and make them feel loved. I want to help people realise their dreams. We are all the caretaker of dreams. We all have the opportunity and responsibility to push our beautiful game Beyond Greatness.”

Two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis interviewed Emma Hayes, Chelsea FC manager and Arsene Wenger, FIFA Chief of Global Football Development during ‘Coaches Conquering the World’. Discussion topics included the various aspects of managing at the top level, their current roles and personal experiences. “Half of the world’s population don’t get the chance to play and to develop. We want to give everybody a chance. We want to give boys and girls a chance all over the world. We know that is not [currently] the case. We want to transform and change the world and we need all the MA’s to help us do that but I really believe football can change the world. Not only on the footballing side, but even on the human side.” Arsene Wenger

Pillar 2: Educate & Empower

The second half of day one commenced with a keynote presentation on ‘Training and Preparing Women as Women’ from respected researcher, educator and practitioner Dr. Nonhlanhla S. Mkumbuzi.

“Females are routinely and systematically excluded from research. It is undeniable that we need to train, prepare, and manage women football players as women. It is not all bad news and in recent years, various stakeholders have heeded the call to action, and are conducting more research in women athletes. The FIFA Women’s Football Division, for its part, has taken the lead in female athlete health through multiple projects.”

‘Training and Preparing Women as Women’ followed and was moderated by Carol Tshabalala along with panellists Dr. Dawn Scott (Washington Spirit), Dr. Georgie Bruinvels (Orreco, Chelsea) and former New Zealand international and FIFA Legend Kirsty Yallop. “We know that around two-thirds of female athletes feel at times during their menstrual cycles that they can’t do as well as they would like to, [yet] they need to train of play on any given day. So [female athletes] need to be empowered with that knowledge and know-how to support and manage [it]. How to work with it rather than against it.” Dr. Georgie Bruinvels “When I was playing, the only that was maybe done in this area was tracking our cycle ... but from there nothing really came from it. Now, we are actually able to use that information to help enable our performance and that is game-changing. [It is about] being able to enable players to perform at their level constantly and not have to worry about those things that are out of their control. The more everybody learns and embraces it and starts to use this information to help players is the way forward” Kirsty Yallop

‘Women’s Football, a Driver for Greater Societal Change’ saw Common Goal’s Dr. Vladimir Borkovic welcome panellists South Sudan national team player Amy Lasu, Kylie Bates (UN Women) and Lamia Bahaian (Vice President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation) take to the stage. “I would like to see equal opportunities for women. I would like to see social justice ... because women face more discrimination and violence. I would like to see more participation for women ... and change the narrative of women’s football. These are just some of things I would like to see.” Amy Lasu “Thanks to this very tournament, new countries are trying [to build women’s football]. Millions of girls in Saudi are watching the tournament. Through football you empower and educate. Through football you create leaders and role models and football is the perfect platform to do so.” Lamia Bahaian

Pillar 3: Govern and Lead

The final session of the day kicked-off with a case study entitled ‘Success Story: Angel City FC in Focus’, a talk moderated by Stephanie Rudnick and told by Kara Nortman - Co-Founder Angel City FC, and Julie Uhrman - Co-Founder & President Angel City FC, with both guests key figures in the unique success enjoyed by the Los Angeles-based NWSL club. “Angel City is a movement, but it is built very differently. We wanted to have a positive impact in the community. We [at Angel City] want to show that people not only show up for women’s football, but you can invest in it and it will be profitable. The idea that people don’t watch or invest in women’s football has again been proven wrong at this World Cup.” Julie Uhrman “Women’s football is culture. If you look in the stands at Angel City, it is [a reflection of] Los Angeles.” Kara Nortman

The opportunity to grow club football was in focus during ‘Setting The Pace: The Professionalisation of Women’s Football’. Moderated by Samantha Johnson, the panel featured Sarah Gregorius (FIFPRO), Carlos Valenzuela (Tigres UANL), Jessica Berman (NWSL) and Ian Wright (former England striker and FIFA Legend). “Because I was a product of systemic social norms around gender equity and barriers for women I unfortunately defaulted to working in men’s sports. When I got the call to move into women’s football, I quickly learned that women’s football is the epitome of sport as a platform for social change because we can demonstrate to the world that this is a business in which investment can open peoples’ eyes to a different way of conducting societal norms. I feel every day that I am living my dream, being in a position to leverage and unlock potential of what is possible.” Jessica Berman

The final panel for the day - ‘Tone at the Top: Diversifying Leadership for Success’ - was moderated by former Australia international and TV presenter Amy Duggan, and featured Aisha Falode (Nigeria FA), Karina LeBlanc (Portland Thorns), Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Japan FA General Secretary) and Victoria Diaz (Uruguay). “Leadership does not have a gender. The important thing is for a women leader – do not be afraid to use your voice. If you do not quickly get into the conversation when you have something to say you will be sidelined.” Aisha Falode “[Japan’s WE League] must have at least 50 per cent female club members, at least one female must be involved in the decision making process at executive level, and at least one female must have a coaching role. We hope that this collaboration will work and see more women have involvement [in football].” Tsuneyasu Miyamoto

The extensive day one programme concluded with a stirring keynote address from former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ‘The Importance of Diverse Leadership’. Themes featured included the value of engaging women in all aspects of society and her personal experiences of being held back because of her gender. “What I have observed is that when companies involve women in leadership they do better. It is imperative that everyone in this room demands change. The challenge I give you all is making your voice known.”