Saturday 19 August 2023, 07:00

Sarai Bareman says women players are finally receiving the accolades they deserve

  • FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer addresses Second FIFA Women’s Football Convention

  • She says boys are imitating Sam Kerr's backflip “without knowing how much it warms the hearts of their mums and dads”

  • Records are being smashed and football is bringing people together

From girls and boys imitating Australian forward Sam Kerr's goal celebrations to the packed stadiums at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, women footballers are finally receiving the acclamation they deserve, FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman said in her address to the Second FIFA Women’s Football Convention. In an emotional address, Ms Bareman spoke about how women players were now enjoying similar celebrity status to their male counterparts, even among boys. "Finally for young girls, their heroes look like them. Young boys are wearing the names of their favourite players on their backs and writing their names on home-made signs. You see them in the stadiums in every single match. And it’s not (Cristiano) Ronaldo or (Lionel) Messi, it’s Marta, (Alexia) Putellas, (Lucy) Bronze, (Alex) Morgan, (Yui) Hasegawa, (Hannah) Wilkinson, and (Nouhaila) Benzina. And it’s not a surprise anymore: it’s just football! "Young boys are backflipping in their front yards pretending to be Sam (Kerr), and without even knowing how much it is warming the hearts of their mums and dads.”

She said this was just one of the ways in which the tournament had completely altered perceptions of the women's game. "This year we’ve felt a seismic shift in the way that people see the women’s game. 2023 is about showing the world what it means to take the game beyond greatness. To put our players on the pedestal that they belong, to fill them stadiums, smash records - and we were doing it on a daily basis in this tournament - break down barriers and show every young girl and boy, from every corner of the world that they can dream to make a living from football." Referring to difficulties encountered in the past by those championed women football, the FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer said that things have moved on.

“We’ve spent years knocking on the doors of people who didn’t care, who wouldn’t invest, people that ignored what to us was simply so obvious,” she said. “This is your moment. It’s not a moment for you to say ‘I told you so’, but it’s a moment for you to smile and take it all in.” “They told us growing up that women couldn’t earn a living from playing our game, but now the lives of 736 players have changed forever, thanks to this FIFA Women’s World Cup. They told us that no one would watch but in all hours of the morning and night millions are tuning in all over the world.” That was followed by an appeal to member association presidents and general secretaries to trust in their women's football specialists, and to be inspired on Sunday when they attend world football’s global showpiece final in 2023.

"Take notice of what you feel when you’re in the stadium, think about the power of this cultural movement and what it can do for your country. This isn’t just football, it’s different, and tomorrow you will feel it and know what I mean," she said. She also talked about football's unique power to unite, saying: "There is nothing on this planet that can bring people together the way this tournament has; that can empower young girls and women the way this tournament has, to create a platform for greater societal change like the FIFA Women’s World Cup does."