Wednesday 04 October 2023, 19:30

Colombia reaching new heights, whilst keeping an eye on the future

  • FCF's director of development analyses the current state of the women's national teams

  • Ivan Novella highlights the key pillars of work underpinning the nation’s progression

  • Colombia will host the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2024

In the last 12 months, Colombia has unquestionably become a leading force in women's football at international level, finishing as quarter finalists at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup™ in Costa Rica, runners-up at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup™ in India and quarter finalists at the FIFA Women's World Cup™ in Australia and New Zealand.

"Four years ago, towards the end of 2019, we set ourselves the goal of strengthening our women's football. The Pro League started in 2017, which led to growth locally. Then we needed to see this reflected at national team level," Ivan Novella, development director of the Colombian Football Federation, said during the FIFA Women's Football Convention held in Sydney on the eve of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Final.

Among the key pillars of this progression, says Novella, are the implementation of more training camps; the professionalisation of coaching staff; improvements in the selection process of players, both domestic based, and abroad; and increased competitiveness via matches, largely thanks to the full use of FIFA international calendar windows.

Add to these achievements a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games and a runners-up spot at the Copa América Femenina 2022, played in Colombia, and Novella has plenty of reasons to boast. However, he prefers to take a different path.

"We didn't think we'd achieve these results so soon, but we have excellent players, a very good natural talent that we've been working on. The professionalisation of the clubs was key, but we know that we still have a way to go. For example, we must continue to strengthen our league," he reasons, noting that the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup has had a Colombian team on the podium in its last five editions.

Linda Caicedo of Colombia celebrates after scoring her team's first goal

To further broaden its existing development framework for the women’s game, the Colombian Federation last February launched the ‘Football with a Future’ project. The plan, designed for the period 2022-25, is supported by FIFA, which will provide just over USD 2,300,000 in the framework of the FIFA Forward 1.0 and 2.0 funding cycles. "The project includes investment in training camps, coaching staff, the organisation of friendly matches, and the construction of sports and medical infrastructure for all our national teams, which of course includes the women's teams. The ultimate goal is to improve sporting performance and achieve more positive results," says Novella. Colombia will host the next FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2024. What can those travelling to Colombia expect? "They can expect joy, a lively Cup. We're going to take very good care of the spectators, the press, the teams, the coaches... We're very good hosts," says Novella with a smile.

As the FCF's development director, he is confident that the stadiums will be well attended. "We're going to have a lot of spectators. The results of our national team at the last FIFA Women’s World Cup have awakened the fire of women's football that had been growing. That small seed we planted has really sprouted now. There is a great willingness on the part of the Federation and local partners to organise this event.”

Asked what changes he would like to see in the region in the run-up to the next senior FIFA Women's World Cup, Novella has no doubts.

Colombia fans show their support prior to the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Quarter Final match between England and Colombia at Stadium Australia

"First, on a sporting level, I would like South America to have a world champion again. Hopefully, it will be Colombia, but if not, I would like to see a women's football champion come out of the region.

"Then, that we have more investment from brands, sponsors, more media participation and greater attendance at the stadiums of the clubs that play in the local leagues," he continues.

"And thirdly, that there are more competitions. What brings the players to an excellent level is the number of competitions. More official matches, but also more friendlies. That means that our players can have an improved market, become attractive to even bigger clubs, and that will further strengthen our national teams.” The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Colombia 2024™ will be enlarged from 16 to 24 teams and take place from 31 August to 22 September 2024.