2027 World Cup bidding: Dutch grassroots women’s club says inclusivity is key to growing the game

Insideworldfootball talks exclusively to Annabel van Meeteren, President of SVO VV Pinkenberg to gather her thoughts on the BNG2027 bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027 and the positive impact a successful bid could have for the women’s amateur game across The Netherlands.

Q. Please tell us about your club. Where you are from, the club’s history and how it was first established and how women’s football is managed and has become a part of your club

van Meeteren: Our club is called VV Pinkenberg. We are located in the Netherlands, at the top of a small hill in the middle of the Veluwe, which is a beautiful national park. Three clubs are located on that same hill.

For many years these clubs struggled to retain their female players. Especially at a certain age, it was difficult to form teams and provide all the players with what they needed and deserved. So that’s how and why we started VV Pinkenberg. We combined the women’s sections of the three clubs and created a new stand alone women’s club. We are proof that collaboration between different clubs and joining forces can lead to beautiful outcomes.

This has been our first year as our own girls and women’s club and it has been a wonderful one. Of course, we are still finding our way, but we never initially thought it would be this successful. Especially, because as a cooperative, there was an element of risk to work together. But it is amazing to see that we are an example that working together and joining forces can have a positive effect.

The most rewarding feeling is that we can give female players what they truly deserve. We have many teams across different age groups. It does not matter whether our girls play football for fun or are performance and results oriented. We have a place for everyone to grow, develop and above all, have fun! That’s a huge difference between now and the past.

Q. Clubs like yours which sit at the base of the football pyramid are a critical foundation of football’s eco system. Most players who make it to the very top begin their footballing journey at their local club, others who don’t make it learn invaluable life skills playing the game at a young age at clubs like yours. Can you share your experience around the relevance and meaning of a club like yours in the overall ecosystem of football?

van Meeteren: Within VV Pinkenberg the focus is now solely on the girls and ladies. We actively invest in the club, the technical committee and associated staff. We believe a safe and positive sporting environment is very important and are therefore happy to invest in well-trained coaches. We also ask all our coaches and other executives for their Certificate of Good Conduct. This allows us to contribute to a pleasant, safe and fulfilling sporting environment so that girls and ladies can develop and grow to their full potential enhancing their ability to fulfil beautiful and successful careers.

Of course it is fantastic to see the girls developing and growing into full-fledged football players. As long as we at VV Pinkenberg can facilitate this for our players, we will of course do so. But much more importantly, is what do the girls want themselves, and what is best for them.

If a football career is the target, we certainly encourage this and provide them with the sporting infrastructure and coaching expertise to help them reach their goals. We feel pride in being able to contribute to this.

Q. What is your opinion around the development of girl’s football in The Netherlands over recent years and how do you see its future direction of travel?

Because of the COVID pandemic a lot has changed around girl’s football. Many girls and women experienced what it meant to have more free time. That made it even more challenging to attract players to create fully-fledged teams for the three clubs. So after the pandemic there remained a dedicated group of people with a heart for football. Not only the players themselves, but also the many volunteers.

VV Pinkenberg now consists of a reliable group of people with whom we confidently look forward with in facing the future. I feel there is great interest and excitement around the women’s game which will only grow if BNG2027 is awarded the hosting rights to the Women’s World Cup in 2027.

Moreover, it is nice to see how more and more collaborations are emerging between clubs in the Netherlands. Women who join forces and move forward together. You also see it more in our region. I really think that is where the future lies for amateur women’s football. One women’s department within a city or village provides the most focus and the highest possible level.

The KNVB as part of its long term vision for the development of women’s football is seeking to encourage and facilitate greater collaboration between amateur clubs as we have done at VV Pinkenberg. Girls want to play in all girl’s teams in a competitive environment and we have to find ways to offer them this opportunity. The risk is that if we can’t offer this the game becomes less attractive and girls are turned off playing football.

The KNVB recognises that the best way to maintain interest and enhance participation is to look at how clubs can pool their resources and combine forces. Any clubs who want to go in that direction can reach out to the KNVB who offer guidance and advise on how to combine forces similar to what we did at VV Pinkenberg. This approach is clearly the best one if we want to continue to deepen and strengthen women’s football.

Q. BNG2027 bid stands for Breaking New Ground across all pillars relating to the development of the women’s game. From your perspective, how would a successful BNG2027 bid impact a grassroots clubs like yours and how could you turn this unique opportunity into furthering and enhancing your playing base and beyond that how could it help accelerate the development of women’s football more generally across The Netherlands?

van Meeteren: The UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 was hosted and won by the Netherlands. It was of course a wonderful achievement for the Dutch women’s national team. We must ask ourselves how we can we take learnings from that experience and consider how to maximise the opportunity of hosting football’s biggest international tournament to boost the development of the women’s amateur game if the BNG2027 bid is successful.

As a club, we seek to be a “club for everyone”. No matter where you come from or how old you are. It would be great if a successful BNG2027 bid could contribute to this – that must be the target and I’m delighted that this objective has been placed at the heart of the BNG2027 bid.

In addition, I think it is important that bonding and connection are sought between professionals and amateur clubs. I certainly think there is more to be gained if this connection is actively sought. Football is a true ecosystem. For the elite professional game to prosper players need to develop their skills at the youngest age at clubs like ours.

We were also three ‘rivals’ before we became VV Pinkenberg. Just like Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. But we have shown that you can achieve much more through collaboration than alone. I think this is the best example for BNG2027. If you strive for the best, you sometimes have to go beyond your own boundaries, literally.

Q. Finally, as a Dutch citizen and a football fan, could you tell us what it would mean to you to have the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027 take place in your country?

van Meeteren: First of all, I really think that it would be a big opportunity for women’s football in the Netherlands and of course for us as an amateur club. As a club we have goals and a clear purpose. It would be great if the World Cup could contribute to achieving them.

Professional women’s football cannot be compared to men’s football if you ask me. On March 19 I attended a Women’s Champions League match between Ajax and Chelsea. I think the atmosphere is so special at these women’s competitions. These competitions bring all kinds of people together. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. You certainly don’t have to be a woman yourself.

The atmosphere in the stadium during these matches is fantastic. The songs that are sung, the wave that passes by every 10 minutes, the people looking out for each other and the children jumping and dancing around, that is beautiful to see. Women’s football brings people together, for sure! A successful BNG2027 will deepen and accelerate all of that I’m sure!

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