March 8 – International Women’s Day is being marked by a series of initiatives around the football world to promote the women’s game and unite support for the increased participation of women in football both on and off the field.
On Monday FIFA hosted its third Conference for Equality and Inclusion with Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, saying: “As the world governing body of the planet’s most popular sport, we represent millions of people, regardless of gender, origin, social status or religious belief. We must be human – full stop.”
“Diversity is the only way forward,” she continued. “Not only because morally it is the right thing to do, but because there is richness in it. The group of people in this conference today is a solid example of this. It is a beautiful representation of what the whole world should be and what football can and should represent. And for that we do not need words, but actions.”
Most action in this area can be seen in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and its member associations, 30 of whom are marking the AFC Women’s Football Day with festivals, tournaments, workshops, skills clinics and seminars involving children and adults, women’s national team players and other women’s football role models to celebrate the annual continent-wide campaign dedicated to the promotion and development of women’s football.
AFC Head of Women’s Football Development Bai Lili said: “Women’s football in Asia is already world class, we have a FIFA World Cup winner in Japan, FIFA age-group champions from DPR Korea and five teams among the top twenty teams in the world.
“But we have some more work to do in lifting the level across all our MAs, who are very diverse. We continue to see encouraging developments around the continent, with a steady increase in the number of MAs taking part in the AFC youth competitions. This is great news for the future of the women’s game in our continent.”
The on-going and growing strength of women’s game in Asia was felt first-hand by the rest of the world at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup final played in Jordan, with two AFC members in the final (DPR Korea and Japan), and the refereeing team from Australia and India.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “Women’s football has special significance across the AFC as we excel on the world stage. Asia is the world’s biggest football community and women and girls are an important part of the future success of the game in the continent. Fulfilling Asia’s football potential is possible only if it includes everyone: women, men, boys and girls.”
The AFC women’s youth competitions take place later this year, with the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship played September 9-23 in Thailand and the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship on October 14-28 in China. The qualifiers for Asia’s top women’s senior team competition, the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, will be played in April in DPR Korea, Palestine, Tajikistan and Vietnam. The final tournament will take place in April next year in Jordan.
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