Thursday 18 January 2024, 07:30

Women’s league pilot programme sets Laos up for long-term development

  • Lao Women’s League was a pilot programme to launch a women’s league in Laos

  • The league saw eight teams made up of 175 players compete in a full 14-round competition

  • The pilot programme was made possible with support from FIFA Forward

The first season of the Lao Women’s League concluded last month when Young Elephants FC were crowned inaugural champions.

With support from the Lao Football Federation (LFF) and FIFA Forward, the 2023 Lao Women’s League was a pilot programme to enlarge the participation as well as engagement of the new stakeholders to the development of women’s football in Laos.

The only landlocked nation in southeast Asia and with a population of less than eight million, Laos had recently invested in junior female football and female national team development and needed a women’s league to accelerate and continue their growth.

Women’s football in Laos had been on a steady growth pattern from 2010 to 2019 but the Covid-19 pandemic put an end to the progress that was made and forced the nation to start again from scratch.

“We have been working so hard on women's football in Laos: first we established the women's national teams, then we had a youth team, but try-outs and training camp only lasted for one or two months, which was not enough,” said Kanya Keomany, General Secretary of Lao Football Federation and FIFA Council member.

“Having a women’s football league was the answer we needed. We spoke with many stakeholders, as well as a FIFA consultant, and it was suggested to have a consistent and sustainable league.”

The pilot edition of the Lao Women’s League 2023 consisted of eight clubs made-up of 229 participants: 175 players and 54 team officials. Four of the clubs were from the nation’s capital city, Vientiane, with the remaining four clubs from provinces around the country.

It was a successful debut season with a total of 249 goals in 56 matches. Young Elephants FC were the standout with 13 victories from their 14 games along with their star midfielder, Vilinthong Vongsengthong, winning the tournament MVP.

The league gave the nation’s women a chance to play consistently, a chance to compete in properly organised and consistent training sessions, and a chance to work with qualified coaches.

The challenge now for the LFF is to turn the positive momentum from the pilot season into consistent development opportunities for women in the country.

“We want to have a pool of players for Laos to call on and we want to have a league that gives those players the stage to play,” said Keomany. “We’re going to look at not just holding the league annually, but also establishing development programmes at each of the clubs so they can support their players and be able to stand by themselves and participate in the league every year.”

The establishment of the Lao Women’s League is the first phase in the implementation of the newly-launched LFF women’s football strategic plans 2023-2027 that was developed by LFF Women’s Football taskforce in collaboration with FIFA Women’s Football Development team. Moving forward, LFF aims to further utilise the assistance provided by the FIFA Forward programme to continue organising the Lao Women’s League and, hopefully, expand the competition to involve more teams and players.

Football féminin