Friday 11 November 2022, 07:00

Landmark course guides women’s coaches in the Pacific

  • First-ever FIFA/OFC C Licence conducted specifically for women

  • Five-day event included on- and off-field activity, mentoring and more

  • Course conducted in same week as long-awaited Football Ferns’ return home

This year is shaping as a milestone period for women’s football in the Pacific. The headline act, of course, will be the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ – the first to take place in the Oceanian region. Prior to then, Papua New Guinea will represent Oceania in the inaugural edition of the Play-Off Tournament for the Women’s World Cup in February. Currently PNG – along with Fiji and Solomon Islands – are competing in Australia in rare international matches outside the confederation. New Zealand will host their first home match in four years this weekend in Christchurch as the Women’s World Cup co-hosts mark the first of several home matches over the coming six months. Meanwhile, across town in the Garden City, there is another landmark for regional women’s football with the confederation’s first-ever FIFA/OFC C Licence course run specifically for females. Nineteen coaches from eight of Oceania Football Confederation’s Member Associations were represented during the extensive five-day event this week.

Designed specifically for female coaches and delivered by women working at the top of the game, participants learned from role models, with the course specially adapted around the challenges faced in the Pacific. “The objective is to build the pool of female C Licence holders across the region to be able to progress them in the future to higher level as well,” said Arijana Demirovic, Head of FIFA Women’s Football Development. “This initiative is part of FIFA and OFC women´s football strategy and one of the key aspects to enhance development of female coaches in the OFC Member Associations.”

The diverse scope of the course included on-field sessions, attending the New Zealand-Korea Republic international, as well as a focus on mentoring. The latter mirrors the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme and ensures participants will stay supported and connected. New Zealand assistant coach Michael Mayne took time out from the Football Ferns’ preparation to be a guest speaker and also engage in a Q&A session with the attendees. A strong leadership group was headlined by FIFA Technical Study Group member and former USA coach April Heinrichs, and also included highly-experienced PNGFA women's football development officer Margaret Aka, Tahiti coach Stephanie Spielmann and Girls Youth Development Manager at Football Australia Debbie Fisher. A survey conducted on women in football across the Pacific, found the vast majority of women see having an enabling and supportive environment of other women as essential to their leadership and coaching journey.

The C Licence Course for female coaches creates a safe space for female coaches to learn and develop alongside their peers, and with a team of experienced coach educators leading the way, it has been a positive learning experience for all. “OFC’s mission is to create opportunities which enable women in football to thrive in the Pacific,” said Emma Evans, OFC’s Women’s Football Manager. “One of the key areas to help us achieve this is through education, where we aim to increase the quantity and quality of female coaches in the region. Currently less than 10 per cent of football coaches across the Pacific are women, and this number decreases further in high performance environments. “The C Licence Course is the first step in shifting this narrative, where we aim to provide female coaches with the skills, knowledge and confidence to step into coaching roles and thrive once they are there.”