Sunday 24 September 2023, 09:30

Dominican Republic makes giant strides

  • Dominican Republic will host the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2024

  • The aim is to ensure a lasting legacy

  • “Women's football is here to stay.”

In the last few years, Dominican Republic's sporting joys have ceased to be confined to the "diamond." Accustomed to their triumphs in baseball, the fans have gradually turned their attention to football. And their curiosity has been rewarded.

"Football's growth in the Dominican Republic in recent years, particularly in the last three, has been skyrocketing," says Ruben Garcia, president of the Dominican Football Federation.

And he adds: "We managed to go to a FIFA U-20 [men's] World Cup, earned the right to go to the Olympics, and women's football has experienced a remarkable growth. Our teams have ranked among the top eight in the region. It's a sign that we're growing. I'm proud to lead an Executive Committee that has accomplished so much in women's football, which we look at excitedly and see as a project with many challenges, but above all, many rewards."

The next challenge for the Dominican Republic is more significant: to host a FIFA competition for the first time, the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2024. To help achieve this, Ruben Garcia attended the FIFA Women's Football Convention 2023, where he learned first-hand the best practices for organising a top-level competition.

"We've seen the great organisation of New Zealand and Australia, and they've created a great product that's made waves worldwide. It reflects how we should organise a World Cup for the Dominican Republic. It's a good benchmark for us to try and emulate the great work done here."

In addition, during the two-day convention in Australia, Garcia took home other valuable lessons: "I believe the FIFA Women's Football Department gives us hope. Women's football is there for the taking. We just have to seize it, promote it, and, above all, take advantage of it. Women's football has shown signs of growth. The scale of women's football we see now, was almost utopian 7, 8, 10 years ago. Without question, women's football is here to stay."

Nigeria v Dominican Republic : Group D -  FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023

Ruben Garcia finds the warmth of the people of the Caribbean paradise country a valuable asset, so all those who travel to the competition will enjoy unforgettable moments both inside, and away from the stadium.

"What can visitors expect in the Dominican Republic? Warmth, passion, and above all, energy and joy. We're characterised as a pleasant and, above all, hospitable country. They'll find that the Dominican Republic will welcome them with open arms, and they'll enjoy a fantastic World Cup."

However, the goal is for the legacy of the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be lasting, and to mark a 'before' and 'after' in football in the Dominican Republic.

"I hope that after the World Cup, we can popularise women's football. The Dominican Republic is a country of many passions. Football, as it's often said, is born in the heart but played with the feet. We want to leave a legacy of growth that can open doors for the future so that in 20 years, we can say we opened those doors and paved the way for the future of women's football."

Brazil v Dominican Republic : Group D -  FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023

In this way, the Dominican Republic will contribute to its country's football growth and the entire region of the Northern Zone, Central America, and the Caribbean.

"Concacaf has shown it's a great force in women's football. Out of the six available slots [in the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023], Concacaf filled all of them. Considering how tough it has been, I think Panama, Haiti, and Jamaica are doing great work. It's an example for other countries, especially those with smaller populations and less-developed women's football." The FIFA Women's Football Convention took place in Sydney between 18-19 August. You can now find all keynote speeches and panel discussions available here.