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AFC hosts first continental FIFA women’s football leadership conference!

Women’s football managers from across the AFC’s Member Associations met yesterday, April 16 in Jordan, host country of the ongoing 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, for a FIFA leadership workshop.

The AFC is the first confederation to host such a continent-level event and the leadership training gathered together both women and men working in women’s football across Asia.

The FIFA Women’s Football Conference continues on Tuesday with the Member Associations’ General Secretaries joining the event. A total of 38 Member Associations are represented, with some MAs being present who have previously not had a women’s football representative.

FIFA organised the first-ever confederation-level women’s football leadership conference to coincide with the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan. The competition is being hosted in West Asia for the first time in its history and it was only fitting for FIFA to bring the AFC Member Associations together for women’s football development during the historic finals. The conference participants will also attend the 5/6th playoff match and the semifinals.

The leadership training on the first day was organised for the federations’ women’s football managers to empower them to lead a process of transformation. The participants agreed that a transformative process and a change of mindset are needed at most of the Member Associations to reach the desired goals for women’s football, through a sustainable women’s football development programme.

The participants discussed the meaning of leadership, studied the science behind it and learnt to understand their leadership strengths and how to use them.

Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, President of the Jordan Football Association and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee Board for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan, opened the conference on Monday and welcomed his fellow AFC Member Associations to Jordan. In his opening speech he expressed a wish that the competition will encourage women’s football’s progress in the West Asian region and in all of Asia.

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman noted that the AFC Women’s Asian Cup provided a fantastic backdrop for the event. She said, “There is huge diversity in Asia and delivering a women’s football strategy for Asia is a huge challenge. Let alone for the whole world.”

She went onto introduce FIFA’s global women’s football development strategy and its five main components: develop & grow, showcase the game, communicate & commercialise, govern & lead and educate & empower.

FIFA Council Member Mahfuza Akhter Kiron also addressed the participants, “Thank you all for your dedicated work for women’s football development. Many AFC members face various challenges, such as natural disasters, and there is also discrimination for women’s football. Despite this, we have improved a lot but there is still a lot of work to do. I congratulate the teams that have overcome these obstacles and are here in Jordan, competing to become Asian champions.”

Wim Koevermans, Deputy Director of the AFC’s Technical Department, presented the AFC’s women’s football development strategy to the audience, emphasising the need to bridge the gaps between the different levels of women’s football in Asia.

Samar Nassar, CEO of the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, gave the participants a comprehensive summary of the preparations and strategy involved in the pioneering initiative of Jordan hosting the FIFA women’s youth level tournament in 2016. The focus of the bid campaign and the legacy of the tournament was using football as a vehicle for social change.

A panel discussion followed, involving MA representatives from Laos, Maldives and Philippines, with AFC Women’s Football Committee Chairwoman Moya Dodd completing the group.

Edwin Gastanes, General Secretary of the Philippines Football Federation, said about the situation of women’s football in the country, “There has been an upsurge in interest in football in the recent eight years. Focus on women’s football will continue. We are planning to set up a women’s football league. We are happy to have qualified for the Women’s Asian Cup here in Jordan because it brings focus to women’s football.”

Football Association of Maldives (FAM) General Secretary Mohamed Athif noted, “When I started working at the association in the 1990s we had one female employee and I learnt a lot from her. Now we have increased the number of women in FAM to over 50 per cent and I can say they are our best employees!”

Kanya Keomany, Chairwoman of the Women’s Football Committee at the Lao Football Federation encouraged her MA colleagues, “With a clear plan and vision you can convince the Executive Committee members or the board of directors to support women’s football.”

Moya Dodd said about the importance of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, “Over half of the world’s population live in Asia. So the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is, if you like, half the world cup!”

She called for a women’s club competition for Asia and increasing the number of teams in the senior women’s national team competition from the current eight.

Addressing the General Secretaries, she said, “I encourage you to look at your association’s overall budget and the percentage of it that is dedicated to women’s football. Think about whether it’s the right percentage, and how your grandchildren, your granddaughters, will see judge it in the future, as your women’s football legacy.”

In the afternoon sessions the participants worked in groups and the conclusions of the working groups will be presented on Tuesday.

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